A New York man with ties to Georgia is accused of trying to extort money from embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen.
Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, N.Y. was arrested, charged with attempting to extort $250,000 from Deen in exchange for not telling the media about “true and damning” statements allegedly made by Deen, the FBI reported.
Paculis indicated that the information he had would “bring hardship and financial ruin to Deen,” who has recently lost her Food Network show, a book deal and sponsorships over her admission of using a racial slur in the past.
Paculis formerly lived in the Savannah and Augusta areas, the FBI said. Deen lives in Savannah, where she owns and operates The Lady & Sons restaurant with sons Jamie and Bobby Deen, and has gained national attention with her butter-rich comfort-food recipes. She has written 14 cookbooks.
According to the federal criminal complaint, filed June 24 in the southern District of Georgia, the FBI was notified by Deen’s attorney that Paculis had been in contact by email and phone call.
Paculis is scheduled to appear in front of a U.S. magistrate in Savannah on July 16, the FBI said.
An economy that sent more people to the workforce instead of the classroom, tougher requirements for financial aid, and a higher bar for admissions are among the factors that contributed to a drop in enrollment at the state’s public colleges and universities for the second year in a row.
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