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Published August 09, 2013, 09:16 AM

Plea change scheduled in Paula Deen extortion case

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A New York man has pleaded guilty in federal court to trying to extort $200,000 from Paula Deen by threatening to reveal damaging information about the embattled celebrity cook if she didn't pay him.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A New York man has pleaded guilty in federal court to trying to extort $200,000 from Paula Deen by threatening to reveal damaging information about the embattled celebrity cook if she didn't pay him.

Thomas George Paculis told a U.S. District Court judge Friday in Savannah: "I did try to take money from her." The 62-year-old defendant said he wanted to make a deal with Deen's lawyer to sign a nondisclosure agreement because "I thought that would make this more legal."

Prosecutors agreed to drop one of two criminal counts against Paculis in exchange for his plea. He faces up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

Judge William T. Moore Jr. allowed Paculis to remain free on bond before sentencing, which could take months.

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