Another twist comes in the saga of Paula Deen, the embattled Food Network personality who has been mired in scandal due to her use of racial slurs. This time, however, someone else is the target of public and legislative ire: a man named Thomas George Paculis.
Paculis reportedly attempted to extort money from Deen and her lawyer, Greg Hodges. Paculis demanded to be paid a sum of $250,000US, lest he reveal "true and damning statements" that Deen allegedly made that Paculis believed would damage her reputation further. FBI agents and local sheriff's deputies arrested Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, N.Y., Friday morning. Paculis is facing charges of extortion.
Paculis had his initial court appearance Friday in New York and was released on bond, said FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett in Atlanta. He has been ordered to appear in federal court in Savannah on July 16.
Deen's public image suffered when statements she made under oath during a court proceeding were made public. As part of a lawsuit tendered by Lisa Jackson against Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers, Deen admitted under oath that she has used 'the n-word' in the past. Several days after the scandal broke, Paculis reportedly contacted Hodges and wrote the following in an email to the lawyer:
"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..." The email transcripts are part of the criminal complaint against Paculis. Hodges contacted the FBI regarding the extortion attempt and the FBI encouraged him to go along with Paculis' scheme until they could put a stop to his illegal activity.
FBI agents have since shown Deen photos of Paculis; she claims she does not recognize him and didn't know his name.
In other Paula Deen news, the former Food Network star has severed ties with her talent agent who first facilitated her big break into show business. After a decade of working with New York agent Barry Weiner, Deen has parted with Weiner for undisclosed reasons. Since the Food Network opted not to renew Deen's contract and removed her shows from the air, this doesn't come as much of a shock.
It seems this story is going to keep getting stranger. Stay tuned to TVRage for the latest.