FBI arrests Tompkins County man for trying to extort Paula Deen

A Tompkins County man is accused of trying to extort former celebrity chef and businesswoman Paula Deen.

Thomas Paculis, 62, of Newfield is charged with extortion. FBI agents arrested Paculis Friday morning.

In a news release, the FBI said a federal criminal complaint was filed in Georgia on June 24.

The complaint says Deen, a Savannah, Georgia business owner and public figure, had received an email and a follow-up phone call from Paculis. The FBI says he was trying to extort Deen by requesting $250,000 in return for not disclosing "true and damning" statements she allegedly made to the media. FBI agents say Paculis indicated the information he had would bring hardship and financial ruin to Deen.

The news release from the FBI says Paculis was taken to the Onondaga County Jail before his initial court appearance. Special Agent Steve Emmett with the FBI in Atlanta says after his initial court appearance, Paculis was released on bond.

He is currently scheduled to appear in front of a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Savannah on July 16.

Paculis used to live in Savannah and Augusta in Georgia.

The Tompkins County Sheriff's Office assisted in the investigation.

(Information from the Associated Press was used in this article)

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