Pastner accusers to face criminal fraud charge

Prosecutors in Arizona have filed criminal charges against a couple that accused Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexually assaulting the woman in a hotel room in February 2016.

According to Oro Valley Magistrate Court records, Ron Bell, Pastner's former friend, was charged Friday with providing false information to law enforcement and facilitation of a fraud scheme practice.

Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, are accused of being "engaged in a plan or scheme ... to allege a false, fraudulent accusation of sexual assault against Josh Pastner with the goal of obtaining an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment," according to Oro Valley Magistrate Court records.

Pendley called police on May 8 and reported that Pastner sexually assaulted her in a Houston hotel room while he was coaching at Memphis more than three years ago. It was the first time she had reported the alleged assault to police.

Pendley's call to police came ahead of mediation in a civil lawsuit related to the accusation. A court filing by Pastner's attorney last year included recorded jailhouse conversations that suggested the couple fabricated the allegations.

Pastner previously denied the couple's allegations, saying there was "zero truth to any of those disgusting, bogus allegations. It's disgusting."

An arrest warrant was issued for Pendley last week, after she failed to appear in court twice to be arraigned on misdemeanor charges of facilitation of a fraud scheme practice, facilitation of influencing a witness and facilitation of tampering with a witness.

Bell was previously charged in March with seven misdemeanor counts, including solicitation of a fraud scheme practice, solicitation of influencing witness, attempted tampering with a witness, use of an electronic communication to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass and impersonating a public servant.

The court records say Bell and Pendley are also accused of "encouraging Chris Meegan to bear false witness against Josh Pastner to a false, fraudulent accusation of sexual assault in exchange for an offer of a portion of an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment."

Meegan, a security guard who worked at Georgia Tech basketball games, previously admitted that he lied about witnessing Pastner inappropriately touch Pendley before a game against Sam Houston State in Atlanta on Nov. 22, 2016.

Meegan later admitted he wasn't working that day and was out of the state.

In January 2018, Pastner filed a civil suit against Bell and Pendley in Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona, alleging they were trying to extort and blackmail him by threatening to release false allegations about him to the media, Georgia Tech and the NCAA.

Bell and Pendley filed a countersuit in February 2018, alleging Pastner had sexually assaulted Pendley in the hotel room and harassed her other times.

A Title IX investigation, conducted by attorneys hired by Georgia Tech cleared, Pastner in the matter in June 2018.

On May 6, Pendley's attorney, Brian Weinberger, withdrew as her counsel in the civil case. Her first attorney withdrew in 2018 because he didn't believe he could ethically remain involved in the case.

In a November 2017 report by CBS Sports, Bell alleged he provided Georgia Tech basketball players Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson with improper benefits by paying for them to fly to his home in Tucson, Arizona, and paying for their meals at a restaurant in Atlanta. Bell also alleged he sent the players shoes and shirts that he purchased online.

After becoming aware of Bell's allegations in October 2017, Pastner said he reported the violations to Georgia Tech's compliance department. Tech officials self-reported the violations to the NCAA, and the school declared Okogie and Jackson ineligible for competition at the start of the 2017-18 season. The NCAA suspended Okogie for six games and Jackson for three. They also required the players to repay the amounts of the benefits they received.

In March, the NCAA sent Georgia Tech a notice of allegations, in which it accused a "representative of the institution's athletic interests" -- identified by sources to be Bell -- of providing more than $2,000 in impermissible benefits to players in 2016 and 2017. Pastner was not named in the notice of allegations.

Georgia Tech was scheduled to respond to the NCAA last week.

Bell served four years in prison in Arizona from 2009 to 2013 following his conviction on felony drug charges. He was arrested in March 2018 on a fugitive warrant from Georgia for a probation violation stemming from an earlier conviction.