Celebrity chef Paula Deen was the target of an extortion scheme, reports say. The alleged blackmailer was arrested Friday in New York. (AP Photo/Carlo
Celebrity chef Paula Deen was the target of an extortion scheme, reports say. The alleged blackmailer was arrested Friday in New York. (AP Photo/Carlo Allegri, File) ( Carlo Allegri )

The FBI arrested a man in New York Friday morning after he allegedly tried to extort $250,000 from controversial celebrity chef Paula Deen, TMZ reports. The man allegedly threatened to release "true and damning" statements made by Deen unless she paid up.

Whew! Thank heavens agents got to this guy before he could damage Deen's pristine reputation.

According to TMZ, Deen and her attorney cited he extortion attempt in a federal criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Georgia on June 24. This came after Deen claims she received an email and follow-up phone call from a man identified as Thomas Paculis.

The complaint claims Paculis threatened to go to the media with information that would bring financial ruin to Deen.

Deen is being sued by a woman who claims the chef used the N-word in multiple conversations and advocated staging a wedding with a slavery theme. The allegations have prompted several sponsors to cut ties with Deen.

Few details were given about Paculis' arrest, except that it happened in New York. He is scheduled to appear before a judge in Savannah, Georgia, on July 16, TMZ reported.