ATLANTA (AP) – Authorities on Friday arrested a New York man charged with trying to extort money from embattled celebrity cook Paula Deen in exchange for not going to the news 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., Friday 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 Friday. 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 Stephen Emmett in Atlanta. He has been ordered to appear in federal court in Savannah on July 16.
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — The Food Network said Friday it’s dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted the first of two videotaped apologies online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.
The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”
The Food Network, which made Deen a star with “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2002 and later “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.
“Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” the statement said. Network representatives declined further comment. A representative for Deen did not immediately return phone and email messages seeking comment on the decision.