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How Much Is A 'Page Six' Story Worth?

It started with a few gossip items about billionaire businessman Ron Burkle.

The New York Post's Page Six said he was dating supermodel Gisele Bundchen. They claimed he was barred from Michael Moore's premiere after-party for "Fahrenheit 9/11" because Burkle was in a fracas. Another story detailed "Spiderman" star Tobey Maguire flying on Burkle's private jet for a New Year's weekend at his Colorado mansion.

Burkle said the stories were bogus and had to stop. Page Six contributor Jared Paul Stern said he could make that happen — for $220,000, according to a person familiar with the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Post – which says Stern is a freelancer who works 2 days a week for the paper – said federal prosecutors requested the Post's cooperation in the probe and help in preserving evidence. The paper said it agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

Now, Stern has been suspended from the Post amid a federal investigation into the extortion allegations. Col Allan, the Post's editor-in-chief, issued a statement, "Should the allegations prove true, Mr. Stern's conduct would be morally and journalistically reprehensible, a gross abuse of privilege, and in violation of the New York Post's standards and ethics."

The two men met in New York twice — in sessions secretly videotaped. At least once, law enforcement agents were monitoring the conversations from the next room.

Stern allegedly demanded $100,000 up front, and $10,000 a month for one year to make Burkle's headache go away.

For the record, Burkle said he owns no Colorado mansion and never hosted Maguire or any other celebrities on his private plane, and covets his privacy.