Paula Deen may have lost much of her empire, but one man has lost his freedom for two years after being an extortionist to get $250,000 from the celebrity chef. Thomas Paculis contacted Deen’s attorney claiming he would release “true and damning” information.
The alleged claim was linked to the celebrity chef’s n-word usage if he didn’t receive a huge check. The FBI tracked Paculis down and he was subsequently arrested and charged with two counts of extortion.
Paculis struck a plea bargain with prosecutors last month, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of extortion. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the remaining count.
Paculis was sentenced today to 2 years in a Georgia prison, plus one year of supervised release and 40 hours community service. He has already been remanded into custody.
Interestingly, the court also ordered Paculis to attend substance abuse counseling. We called Paculis’ attorney to find out why — so far, no word back.
Like Deen, Paculis also owns a restaurant in Savannah called the Troup Square Café, but he was living in New York. He previously worked as an EMT before entering the food industry.
“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…as always..there is a price for such information … You can contact me here if you feel it is necessary… or I can go public and we will see what happens then,” Paculis wrote to Deen’s attorney in the extortion plot letter.
It also seems that substance abuse has been an ongoing problem for Paculis. In 2004, he was arrested in Augusta for a DWI incident an sentenced to 14 days in jail, followed by 11 months and 16 days of probation. He was also fined $911 and ordered to 30 days of community service, undergo clinical evaluation for substance abuse, have an ignition interlock device installed, pay a $25 photo fee, surrender tags and attend a risk-reduction program.
Last month, the sexual harassment and racial discrimination lawsuits against Deen were both dropped in court. Although she has been cleared of all charges, her reputation remains damaged after she admitted under oath to using the N-word 30 years ago.