Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is the flamboyant and often controversial former owner of the popular exotic animal park G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma.
Before working with animals, Maldonado-Passage earned a living as a police officer, at one stage becoming the police chief of Eastvale, Texas.
He had several attempts at trying his hand at politics with a run for U.S. President in 2016 as an independent candidate and a race for governor of Oklahoma in 2018 as a Libertarian. Both the campaigns failed.
However, it was Maldonado-Passage’s feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin that ultimately landed him in prison.
Baskin, who owns a tiger sanctuary known as the Big Cat Rescue in Florida, had been a long-time vocal critic of Maldonado-Passage, but the lawman turned zookeeper decided to partake in murder after Baskin secured a million-dollar judgment against him.
Evidence collected by the FBI and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed that Maldonado-Passage had repeatedly tried since July 2016 to pay various individuals to murder Carole Baskin.
Joe Exotic tried to hire an FBI agent to murder Carole Baskin
On December 8, 2017, Maldonado-Passage met with an undercover FBI agent and unwittingly discussed plans to murder Baskin. The FBI Agent recorded the entire conversation.
The previous month he had also paid Allen Glover $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and then to Florida to murder Carole Baskin. The private zookeeper had promised additional funds to Glover once she had been killed.
In April 2019, Joe Exotic was eventually found guilty on two counts of attempting to hire someone to murder Carole Baskin.
He was also charged with killing five tigers in October 2017 so that he could make room for other big cats. Additionally, he sold and offered to sell tiger cubs across state lines. Because tigers are an endangered species, the killing and selling of animals is forbidden under the Endangered Species Act.
He was found to have falsified documents by stating that tiger cubs were being transported for exhibition when in fact, he was selling the animals.
He was sentenced to 22-years in prison after a federal jury convicted him of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
Due to the success of Netflix’s Tiger King, Maldonado-Passage’s case has attracted plenty of publicity. There have been calls for his release from several celebrities, notably Cardi B, who has attacked Carole Baskin and threatened to start a GoFundMe page to raise money to campaign for his release.
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