Updated at 11:48 p.m. on Friday, July 5:
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - As if Paula Deen didn't have enough problems, a man in Tompkins County is charged with trying to blackmail the celebrity chef.
The FBI believes 62-year old Thomas Paculis contacted Deen's lawyer claiming to have damning information about her, then tried to make a cash deal to keep quiet.
Deen told investigators that she doesn't recognize Paculis, who used to live in Georgia where Deen owns a restaurant called the “Lady and Sons”.
A former manager of the eatery, Lisa Jackson, sued Deen for discrimination. The lawsuit sparked controversy when Deen admitted during questioning that she had used a racial slur several years ago.
Lawyers on both sides of the case say Paculis emailed them last week.
An email to Deen’s lawyer on June 24th reads:
"Mr. G. Hodges...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..."
Deen's lawyer contacted the FBI and was instructed to write back and negotiate a deal.
Investigators say Paculis settled on $200,000, but expressed concern that he was house sitting in New York without a vehicle to the collect the money.
The FBI says he followed up with this letter to the lawyer of Deen's accuser:
"It seems like in every life of a lawyer he will over step that line because he wants to win...but paying a potential witness not to testify amounts to obstruction of justice, even if it's in a civil suit. I have pushed the opposing firm to that level of giving me an amount of money, in cash to never been heard of again and to never utter Paula Deen's name in public or private ever again...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..."
Both lawyers worked with the FBI. Paculis was arrested in the Town of Newfield and taken to the Onondaga County Jail.
He was released on bond Friday night and is facing up to two years in prison if convicted.
His first court appearance is scheduled in Savannah, Georgia later this month.