Zookeeper is sentenced to 22 years in prison over murder-for-hire plot to get rid of CEO of Big Cat Rescue center who criticized his treatment of animals and slaying of five tigers
A former zookeeper has been jailed for 22 years for killing five tigers and trying to hire a hitman to murder an activist who criticized his treatment of animals in Oklahoma.
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, 56 – also known as Joe Exotic – was recorded offering an undercover FBI agent $10,000 to kill Carole Baskin, founder of the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Maldonado-Passage, famed for his blond mullet and foul-mouthed rants on YouTube, had a long-running feud with Baskin since she exposed poor conditions at his tiger-petting zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, ten years ago.
He retaliated by renaming his zoo Big Cat Rescue Entertainment but this backfired when Baskin sued him and was awarded $1million in 2013.
Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, 56 – also known as Joe Exotic – was recorded offering an undercover FBI agent $10,000 to kill animal rights activist Carole Baskin
Maldonado-Passage, who ran unsuccessfully for state governor in 2017, made two attempts that year to hire hitmen to travel to Tampa Bay to murder Baskin.
He first paid a man $3,000 in 2017 and promised to pay him more after she was dead, but this plot was abandoned.
Later the same year he offered $10,000 to an undercover FBI agent to kill Baskin during a meeting that was recorded and played for the jury at his trial last April.
In the recording, he told the agent: ‘Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off.’
Carole Baskin, founder of the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary in Tampa Bay, Florida
Baskin claims Maldonado-Passage also made a video of himself shooting a blow up doll dressed as her.
Maldonado-Passage was sentenced on Wednesday for the murder plot and also for killing five tigers, selling tiger cubs and falsifying wildlife records.
After the sentence he released a statement via Facebook saying he planned to appeal.
He said: ‘I still maintain my innocence and looking forward in the upcoming days to my attorneys filing my appeal and moving onto the next step in this nightmare.’
Prosecutors were satisfied with the sentence.
‘We are thankful for the Court’s thoughtful consideration of the gravity of this murder-for-hire scheme, as well as the defendant’s egregious wildlife crimes in imposing a 22-year sentence,’ U.S. Attorney Tim Downing said in a statement.
In 2016, Maldonado-Passage appeared on John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ when he was a 2016 write-in candidate for president.
Maldonado-Passage at his tiger-petting zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma
The next year, he announced his candidacy as a Libertarian candidate for Oklahoma governor, ultimately finishing third in a three-way primary.
During the campaign, his 23-year-old husband, Travis Moldonado, died after authorities say he accidentally fatally shot himself in the head.
Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes said at the time that witnesses reported Moldonado put a loaded firearm to his head and pulled the trigger to prove the weapon would not fire with the magazine removed.