ATLANTA (AP) — Federal authorities have arrested a New York man they say was trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen.
The FBI said in a news release that Thomas George Paculis of Newfield, N.Y., was arrested Friday. A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Savannah, Ga., charges him with extortion.
The complaint says Paculis was threatening to go to the media with “true and damning” statements made by Deen unless the former Food Network star gave him $250,000.
Special Agent Steve Emmett with the FBI in Atlanta says Paculis had an initial court appearance and was released on bond. Paculis did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday. A call to a phone number for Paculis found in the criminal complaint rang unanswered.
This alleged extortion of Deen is just the latest in a string of stories swirling around the queen of southern cuisine ever since it came to light last month that she admitted in a sworn deposition that she used the n-word in the past. The revelation has led to a sudden and steep decline in her food-business empire, with partners such as Food Network, Wal-Mart, Sears and Smithfield Foods severing their relationships with Deen.