Friday, July 5, 2013

More woes for Paula Deen: The FBI arrests man for extorting troubled chef

As if she needs more bad news, Paula Deen has become the victim of an extortion attempt. can now add being the target of an alleged extortion attempt to an already full plate of legal drama. The FBI announced on Friday that they have arrested Thomas Paculis, 62, in Newfield, N.Y., in connection with an blackmail scheme targeting the celebrity chef, who is embroiled in issues -- and losing sponsors and jobs left and right -- over her past use of the n-word.

Paculis previously resided in Deen's home state of Georgia, in the cities of Savannah and Augusta. His blackmail scheme involved allegedly attempting to , has been charged with attempting to extort $250,000 from Deen by threatening to release “true and damning” statements made by Deen to the media. The criminal complaint was filed on June 24, but not reported until Friday.

Deen's lawyer contacted the Atlanta bureau of the FBI after Deen received an email from Paculis, and followed it up with a telephone call demanding the money. FBI Special Agent Mark F. Giuliano said that Paculis claimed that the information he would release unless a payment was made would bring "hardship and financial ruin to Deen."

Paculis may have timed his threat poorly. After all, the Deen empire is already crumbling, with financial hardship already on her horizon. At least a dozen companies, including the Food Network, Walmart, and Target have severed ties to her in the last few weeks, after she admitted her past use of the n-word during a legal deposition.

The deposition was made as a result of a lawsuit filed against Deen by a former employee who claims she was sexually harassed and worked in a racially discriminatory environment.

The alleged extortion plot is the latest in Deen's travails. She also announced on Thursday that she has split with her agent of more than a decade, Barry Weiner, through a statement issued by her spokeswoman.

In an apology issued by her company, Deen, 66, said she was a victim of the times, her upbringing, and the area she was brought up in -- the South.
[Paula] was born 60 years ago when America's South had schools that were segregated, different bathrooms, different restaurants and Americans rode in different parts of the bus. This is not today.
None of these apologies have taken with consumers or sponsors, to this point, though somm smaller companies have vowed to stick by her.

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