Feds: New York man tried to extort Paula Deen - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Feds: New York man tried to extort Paula Deen

Posted: Updated:
Celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer) Celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show, Wednesday, June 26, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)

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 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.

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.

  • Birmingham Area NewsMore>>

  • Birmingham City School leaders respond to allegations of unqualified administrators

    Birmingham City School leaders respond to allegations of unqualified administrators

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 11:18 PM EDT2014-09-17 03:18:16 GMT
    Birmingham City School leaders are responding to concerns Tuesday involving allegations that two administrators did not hold proper certification for the jobs.More >>
    Birmingham City School leaders are responding to concerns Tuesday involving allegations that two administrators did not hold proper certification for the jobs.More >>
  • Small Treasurers coming to Birmingham Museum of Art

    Small Treasurers coming to Birmingham Museum of Art

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 9:29 PM EDT2014-09-17 01:29:42 GMT
    Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries is coming to the Birmingham Museum of Art early next year. The exhibition, from January 31, 2015 through April 26, 2015, features small 17th-century paintings from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age. During the period, artists demonstrated precise detail by painting on a small scale. At the time, their technical skills were highly revered, and these paintings had an impact on the work of many artists.The exhibition brings toget...More >>
    Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries is coming to the Birmingham Museum of Art early next year. The exhibition, from January 31, 2015 through April 26, 2015, features small 17th-century paintings from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age. During the period, artists demonstrated precise detail by painting on a small scale. At the time, their technical skills were highly revered, and these paintings had an impact on the work of many artists.The exhibition brings toget...More >>
  • Concerns raised over qualifications of Birmingham City Schools Employees

    Concerns raised over qualifications of Birmingham City Schools Employees

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 6:49 PM EDT2014-09-16 22:49:04 GMT
    Some community and educational leaders are raising concerns Tuesday regarding the qualifications of administrators in the Birmingham City Schools System.More >>
    Some community and educational leaders are raising concerns Tuesday regarding the qualifications of administrators in the Birmingham City Schools System.More >>
  • Anniston - Gadsden Area NewsMore>>

  • Gadsden police officers receive Life Saver Award

    Gadsden police officers receive Life Saver Award

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 8:09 PM EDT2014-09-17 00:09:23 GMT
    After 35 years on the job, August 25 could have been a Gadsden man's last shift for AT&T if it weren't for some Gadsden police officers. Danny Day collapsed while retrieving cable. His hard hat came off as he fell to the ground, and Day hit his head and began to bleed profusely. Two police officers, Josh Russell and Jason Coffman, were on patrol on Forrest Avenue. They drove past Day at the right time. "It happened so quickly, as we were approaching, I just saw a hard hat fall."More >>
    After 35 years on the job, August 25 could have been a Gadsden man's last shift for AT&T if it weren't for some Gadsden police officers. Danny Day collapsed while retrieving cable. His hard hat came off as he fell to the ground, and Day hit his head and began to bleed profusely. Two police officers, Josh Russell and Jason Coffman, were on patrol on Forrest Avenue. They drove past Day at the right time. "It happened so quickly, as we were approaching, I just saw a hard hat fall."More >>
  • Town Hall meeting on police and minority relations

    Town Hall meeting on police and minority relations

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 7:35 AM EDT2014-09-16 11:35:18 GMT
    In light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri community and police leaders will be participating in a town hall meeting.A number of people will be there from law enforcement to UAB professors. They will be discussing police and minority relations.More >>
    In light of the events in Ferguson, Missouri community and police leaders will be participating in a town hall meeting.A number of people will be there from law enforcement to UAB professors. They will be discussing police and minority relations.More >>
  • Anniston appoints new school board member; discusses school consolidation

    Anniston appoints new school board member; discusses school consolidation

    Monday, September 15 2014 9:13 PM EDT2014-09-16 01:13:45 GMT
    The Anniston City Council named a former mayor of Weaver as the city's newest board of education member. Ed Kimbrough will replace Donna Ross, who submitted a letter of resignation two weeks ago as she and her family move out of state. Kimbrough was one of three candidates interviewed by the council for the position, along with former Macon County board of education member Ernest Washington, and Andrew Hatley, who previously served on both the Anniston City Council and Board of Education.More >>
    The Anniston City Council named a former mayor of Weaver as the city's newest board of education member. Ed Kimbrough will replace Donna Ross, who submitted a letter of resignation two weeks ago as she and her family move out of state. Kimbrough was one of three candidates interviewed by the council for the position, along with former Macon County board of education member Ernest Washington, and Andrew Hatley, who previously served on both the Anniston City Council and Board of Education.More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Vikings place Adrian Peterson on exempt list

    Vikings place Adrian Peterson on exempt list

    Wednesday, September 17 2014 3:33 AM EDT2014-09-17 07:33:00 GMT
    Adrian Peterson was back at Minnesota Vikings headquarters on Monday, and the first thing fullback Jerome Felton did when he saw his star running back was give him a high-five.More >>
    After a day of public pressure from angry fans and concerned sponsors, the Minnesota Vikings have reversed course and placed star running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt-commissioner's permission list, a move that...More >>
  • Braves' new stadium has a name _ SunTrust Park

    Braves' new stadium has a name _ SunTrust Park

    Wednesday, September 17 2014 12:12 AM EDT2014-09-17 04:12:17 GMT
    The Atlanta Braves new suburban stadium already has a name - SunTrust Park.More >>
    The Braves are still more than two years away from moving into their new suburban ballpark.More >>
  • Birmingham City School leaders respond to allegations of unqualified administrators

    Birmingham City School leaders respond to allegations of unqualified administrators

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 11:18 PM EDT2014-09-17 03:18:16 GMT
    Birmingham City School leaders are responding to concerns Tuesday involving allegations that two administrators did not hold proper certification for the jobs.More >>
    Birmingham City School leaders are responding to concerns Tuesday involving allegations that two administrators did not hold proper certification for the jobs.More >>
  • State lawmaker watching judge's domestic abuse case

    State lawmaker watching judge's domestic abuse case

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 9:52 PM EDT2014-09-17 01:52:22 GMT
    An Alabama congresswoman is speaking out about domestic abuse and says she's closely monitoring a case involving a federal judge from Montgomery.More >>
    An Alabama congresswoman is speaking out about domestic abuse and says she's closely monitoring a case involving a federal judge from Montgomery.More >>
  • Alabama hoping to fully utilize offensive arsenal against Florida

    Alabama hoping to fully utilize offensive arsenal against Florida

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 9:50 PM EDT2014-09-17 01:50:23 GMT
    Alabama has experienced receivers, a deep and talented backfield and a preseason All-Southeastern Conference tight end.More >>
    Alabama has experienced receivers, a deep and talented backfield and a preseason All-Southeastern Conference tight end.
    More >>
  • Small Treasurers coming to Birmingham Museum of Art

    Small Treasurers coming to Birmingham Museum of Art

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 9:29 PM EDT2014-09-17 01:29:42 GMT
    Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries is coming to the Birmingham Museum of Art early next year. The exhibition, from January 31, 2015 through April 26, 2015, features small 17th-century paintings from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age. During the period, artists demonstrated precise detail by painting on a small scale. At the time, their technical skills were highly revered, and these paintings had an impact on the work of many artists.The exhibition brings toget...More >>
    Small Treasures: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, and Their Contemporaries is coming to the Birmingham Museum of Art early next year. The exhibition, from January 31, 2015 through April 26, 2015, features small 17th-century paintings from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age. During the period, artists demonstrated precise detail by painting on a small scale. At the time, their technical skills were highly revered, and these paintings had an impact on the work of many artists.The exhibition brings toget...More >>
  • Gadsden police officers receive Life Saver Award

    Gadsden police officers receive Life Saver Award

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 8:09 PM EDT2014-09-17 00:09:23 GMT
    After 35 years on the job, August 25 could have been a Gadsden man's last shift for AT&T if it weren't for some Gadsden police officers. Danny Day collapsed while retrieving cable. His hard hat came off as he fell to the ground, and Day hit his head and began to bleed profusely. Two police officers, Josh Russell and Jason Coffman, were on patrol on Forrest Avenue. They drove past Day at the right time. "It happened so quickly, as we were approaching, I just saw a hard hat fall."More >>
    After 35 years on the job, August 25 could have been a Gadsden man's last shift for AT&T if it weren't for some Gadsden police officers. Danny Day collapsed while retrieving cable. His hard hat came off as he fell to the ground, and Day hit his head and began to bleed profusely. Two police officers, Josh Russell and Jason Coffman, were on patrol on Forrest Avenue. They drove past Day at the right time. "It happened so quickly, as we were approaching, I just saw a hard hat fall."More >>
  • Small aircraft makes emergency landing at Chilton County airport

    Small aircraft makes emergency landing at Chilton County airport

    Tuesday, September 16 2014 8:02 PM EDT2014-09-17 00:02:36 GMT
    The pilot of a small aircraft en route to Atlanta on Tuesday was forced to make an emergency landing at the Chilton County airport after the plane lost all power to its engine.More >>
    The pilot of a small aircraft en route to Atlanta on Tuesday was forced to make an emergency landing at the Chilton County airport after the plane lost all power to its engine.More >>