"I thought that would make this more legal," Paculis said, though he also acknowledged: "I did try to take money from her."
A spokeswoman for Deen, Elana Weiss, did not immediately return a phone call and email message seeking comment.
Paculis faces up to two years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of using interstate communications to try to extort money. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped a second count of the same charge.
No sentencing date has been set, though the judge said it will likely be in several months. He allowed Paculis to remain free on $10,000 bond and return to New York, but he'll have to submit to electronic monitoring.
Moore is also the presiding judge in the civil lawsuit against Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, by a former employee. Lisa Jackson sued them last year for sexual harassment and discrimination, saying she was surrounded by sexual innuendo and racial slurs when she managed Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, owned by Deen and her brother.
The Food Network and others dropped their business dealings with Deen in June after her legal deposition in the case became public. Answering questions under oath from Jackson's lawyer, Deen said she had used the N-word in the past. She insisted "it's been a very long time."
FBI agent Brad Snider testified that Paculis first contacted Deen's attorney June 24, just five days after the first news reports on Deen's deposition. The lawyer contacted the FBI, which directed him to stay in touch with Paculis as agents monitored their email and recorded their phone calls. Authorities say Paculis also emailed Jackson's attorney, trying to see if he would pay more for information than Deen's lawyer would for Paculis' silence.