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US man pleads not guilty in chef’s extortion plot

July 17, 2013

SAVANNAH, Georgia (AP) — A U.S. man has pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to extort embattled celebrity chef Paula Deen.

An indictment filed July 10 in U.S. District Court charges Thomas George Paculis with trying to extort $200,000 from Deen in exchange for keeping quiet about allegedly damaging remarks she had made in the past. Details on those alleged remarks, and the relationship between Paculis and Deen, were unclear.

A message left with Paculis’ court-appointed attorney on Tuesday wasn’t returned.

The case took form after Deen’s culinary empire began crumbling in response to her acknowledgement that she had used racial slurs in the past.

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