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NY man charged with trying to extort Paula Deen

By Kate Brumback

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:34 a.m. HST, Jul 05, 2013

ATLANTA >> Authorities arrested a New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen in exchange for not going to the media with "true and damning statements" he said she made.

FBI agents and local sheriff's deputies arrested Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, N.Y., this morning. 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 statements made by Deen unless the former Food Network star gave him $250,000. The complaint does not specify what was in the statements Paculis claimed were made by Deen.

Paculis did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment today. A call to a phone number for Paculis found in the criminal complaint rang unanswered. He had his initial court appearance Friday in New York and was released on bond, said FBI Special Agent Steve Emmett in Atlanta. He has been ordered to appear in federal court in Savannah on July 16.

Deen's business deals began falling apart last month after statements she made when she was questioned under oath in May became public. The questioning was part of a civil lawsuit filed last year by Lisa Jackson, a former manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, which Deen co-owns with her brother, Bubba Hiers. Jackson says she was sexually harassed and worked in an environment rife with racial slurs and innuendo.

Asked in her deposition if she had ever used the N-word, Deen replied: "Yes, of course." But she also insisted "it's been a very long time."

Paculis wrote an email to Deen's lawyer, Greg Hodges, on June 24, several days after Deen's statements became public, the complaint says. The text of the email is transcribed in the complaint: "I am about to go public with statements refuting your clients statements about using the 'N' word in her business practices at Lady and Son's... The statements are true and damning enough that the case for Jackson will be won on it's merit alone..."

Paculis went on to say "there is a price for such information..." and urges Hodges to contact him by email, the complaint says.

Hodges contacted the FBI to report the email, and the FBI directed him to reply to it. Hodges and Paculis exchanged several emails, and Paculis provided several examples of information that he believed "would damage your client in so many ways that it would sink your ship before it left the dock," the complaint says.

Hodges and Paculis eventually spoke by phone and Paculis said he wanted $250,000 net and didn't want a paper trail, the complaint says. At the direction of the FBI, Hodges negotiated the amount to $200,000. Paculis told Hodges he was house sitting in New York, didn't have a car and didn't know how he was going to collect the money, the complaint says.

FBI agents showed Deen photos of Paculis, and she didn't recognize him or his name.

Paculis also contacted Jackson's lawyer, Matt Billips, on July 1, a few days after he and Hodges had negotiated the price, the complaint says. He wrote in an email that he had pushed Deen's lawyer to the point of giving him money not to go public with his information, the complaint says.

"Now the burning question is...do you want in...I still have the chance to bring this together, but time is slowly running out...I have them hooked, but reeling this sucker in is gonna be hard without help...give me a call..." the email says.

Meanshile, Deen announced Thursday that she has cut business ties with the agent who helped make her a Food Network star and launch a media and merchandising empire that has largely crumbled in the wake of her admission that she used racial slurs in the past.

Deen had worked with New York agent Barry Weiner for more than a decade. She has said he was instrumental in getting her show "Paula's Home Cooking" on the Food Network in 2002. She gave no reason for her parting with Weiner in a prepared statement.

"Paula Deen has separated from her agent," Deen's spokeswoman, Elana Weiss, said in an email Thursday. "She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years."

Weiner worked to turn Deen into a comfort-food queen since she was little more than a Savannah restaurant owner and self-publisher of cookbooks who earned raves for her fried chicken.

Deen cast no blame in her statement announcing her split with Weiner. It ended by saying, "Paula wishes him well in all future endeavors."

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mikethenovice wrote:
You Tube search, Funny Sign Epic Fail. You will see a sign of a business named, N-word King".
on July 4,2013 | 08:15PM
mikethenovice wrote:
Amazon still sells her talented cookbooks.
on July 4,2013 | 08:16PM
mikethenovice wrote:
How about cracking down on the African-Americans calling each other the N word in public out loud with a smile. That's offensive to everyone around them.
on July 4,2013 | 08:17PM
SteveToo wrote:
This is so stupid. I doubt if there is anyone in the United States who at one time or another used a racial slur.
on July 4,2013 | 08:28PM
Skyler wrote:
The whole of Hawaii would have been on trial had she been a local chef... geez these people have thin skins.
on July 4,2013 | 08:36PM
W_Williams wrote:
So true.
on July 4,2013 | 09:13PM
nitpikker wrote:
i think people are simply tired of her hypocrisy, her fat-style of cooking and her racist/southern attitude which, to her, is considered NORMAL.
on July 5,2013 | 12:28AM
allie wrote:
She is a bore. Never watched her.
on July 5,2013 | 06:51AM
honopic wrote:
If you never watched her, how do you know she is a bore, allie? And why should the rest of us care if you did or didn't? Sierra Tango Foxtrot Uniform.
on July 5,2013 | 08:39AM
Skyler wrote:
If you've grown up here in Hawaii, your 'attitude' is considered racist - did you know that? Even though everyone says all kine stuff about every race here, we don't consider it 'racist' - but to an outsider, it does. Same there. She's no different than anyone else in Hawaii, as far as I'm concerned.
on July 5,2013 | 10:27AM
RetiredUSMC wrote:
What happened to Miss Paula is she did not hire crisis managers for this law suit. She never let Food Network know that she was being sued until it was out of control! She tried to save money and may have lost it all. It was never about the "N" word it was about poor planning and not letting the people that employe you know what was going on!
on July 5,2013 | 03:16AM
cojef wrote:
Yes, you are right. She admitted that the "n" word was used about 30 years ago, when there was no political racial police around. Show me anyone who has not used any slur word. In time of stress many of us have voiced nasty verbiage to overcome the moment at hand. Political correctness deems that one cannot be too careful to express any frustration. What may have been politically correct ages ago, may in the future, no longer be appropriate. What piques me is how rappers can get away with the language they mouth to depict their image. Yet no one or political correctness cops mouth any concerns. Guess, it's like another Buddha head can call me a Buddha head, without repercussions.
on July 5,2013 | 06:02AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Nature of the question is similar to asking a guy, "When did you last beat your wife?" Answering that opens a whole can of worms. Saying you never did so is subject to debate and opinion. Saying you have not done so in 30 years still leaves open the counter and innuendo that you are lying and still doing so. And so on. Amazing job a "good" lawyer can do when they are looking to get you. I guess it's the old paradigm of comparing lawyers to vermin. If you need them to do the job, you gotta. Then you get the new paradigm, that lawyers are good if they work for you. Funny, in all this, there has been no sputtering coming from Deen's lawyer. He or she or they haven't said a word. Wonder where they were when she was called in for the deposition. Yes, she came out of a time when it was normal to do such things. But the innuendo is, "Are you still using the N-word?" "Thirty years ago" doesn't ring true, even if it is. And saying that her dad would have whupped her if she did say or do something harmful, invokes the image that her father was perfect, another improbable. The lawyer just did a good job. Wonder who leaked the deposition? Sure doesn't help the plaintiff, as that reduces the amount of money Deen can pay her due to loss of income.
on July 5,2013 | 07:16AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
We are not her judge! Her use of the n word offended the people that put up dollars to back her. They see it will create a backlash and thus lose them money. That's who care. Anyway like most senior citizens on these blog, her style of cooking with Butter, is not a healthy lifestyle.
on July 5,2013 | 09:38AM
Bdpapa wrote:
I like her. This is all BS.
on July 5,2013 | 06:27AM
Sid_Hartha wrote:
N word. A word so offensive, it cannot be spoken except by those to whom it refers. It was deemed a grave sin, once, to utter God's name. I'm gonna watch my Samuel L. Jackson movies again.
on July 5,2013 | 06:44AM
honopic wrote:
"Barry is affectionatley known in my family as Barry Cuda. Perfect name for an agent." -- Paula Deen, quoted in her own book. I'm willing to bet she never said it to Barry Weiner directly. That's the crux of this whole fiasco -- a two-faced phony celebrity who says hurtful things then wonders what the fuss is all about.
on July 5,2013 | 08:43AM
kispest wrote:
Apparently it is OK for black rapper making millions using that word, or calling each other that, but if anybody else uses it, hells brake loose, Get rid of double standards!
on July 5,2013 | 09:02AM
serious wrote:
Oh, there are double standards everywhere. Try having a White Congressional meeting, or join the White fireman's group. That is discriminatory!!! Look at the kid gloves Obama has had!!! If Bush had taken his family on a $100,000,000 taxpayer paid vacation!!!!!!
on July 5,2013 | 09:40AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Add to that a blacks-only dating site. If whites were to create a similar dating site for whites only, there would be outcry.
on July 5,2013 | 11:17AM
honupono wrote:
She is a nice Southern lady who worked her way through a divorce. Back then she was humble and caring. maybe this is an example of her surroundings and her upbringing. Watching "The Help" reminds me that that children of a certain ethnicity were raised to replace the elder generation. That to me is the the wrong of it all. We may not want to admit it, but society and its "classes" at any given time reflects the accepted practices. The problem is, when those practices and norms change and you as an individual remains the same. If you don't, then you will be seen as a racist or worse. Even in Hawai'i the sentiment that you can call another person from a different ethnicity with a slang happened in a time when their was an innocence and mutual respect. making fun of one's self and ethnicity has no malice just stating an observation about a particular trait or cultural practice.
on July 5,2013 | 09:19AM
false wrote:
Enough about her. She not news anymore. She can go on the cable networks.
on July 5,2013 | 10:04AM
Skyler wrote:
You can get good deals on PD's cookware, etc. @ Ross right now.. probably more to come, too.
on July 5,2013 | 10:25AM
bumbye wrote:
I like Paula Deen, but I think I like Aunty Marialani better!
on July 5,2013 | 10:47AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
There is one more criminal who is trying to extort Paula Deen. And that is the woman accusing here of using the word. She claimed that Paula Deen's use of the word was offensive to her. She is white by the way. And when questioned of her motive, she state that she was doing it for her niece. Her niece turned out to be Hispanic. The mother of her niece has stated that the woman has never visited her niece in years. So how is it that all of a sudden she is fighting for her niece? This accuser is nothing but an opportunist who is using a very heated topic to extort money from Paula Deen through our legal system. I don't think Paula Deen is a racist and the fact that she had blacks play an important role in her personal life shows that she is not. Further, her use of the word was put out of context. How many blacks use the word? How many rappers use the word? How many of us have used the word or similar words? I admit to using that word but in the context of using it with friends who are black. I am not black but they understood the context and they are my dear friends. This whole issue has gotten out of hand and we have an innocent woman losing her livelihood. What was done to her is simply outrageous and is an affront to her reputation. Yes, she was involved in the controversy regarding her health issues and her reputation for using lots of butter. But is that severe enough to lose her job and all of her income? I hope that Paula Deen has her day in court and that this accuser is shown to be what she is, a fraud.
on July 5,2013 | 11:13AM
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