Great Britain

Zookeeper Joe Exotic killed five tigers and hired hit man to murder female rival

A ZOOKEEPER who called himself "Joe Exotic” hired a hitman to kill a female rival and shot and killed five tigers.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 56, has been sentenced to 22 years in prison after to trying to get Florida woman Carole Baskin killed on a number of separate occasions.

Maldonado-Passage shot and killed five tigers on his own account, which violates the Endangered Species Act.

Baskin, the owner of a tiger sanctuary in Florida, had publicly criticized the “Tiger King’s” own animal park in Oklahoma.

Maldonado-Passage was ordered to pay nearly $1 million to settle a trademark infringement with Baskin’s sanctuary in 2013, The Oklahoman reported. At the time of the verdict, he used the name Joseph Allen Schreibvogel.

He also went by the name Joseph Allen Maldonado, and was known as the “Tiger King.”

In the first assassination attempt, Maldonado-Passage first gave a man $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida, with promise to pay more money after she was dead, prosecutors said at the trial.

He then tried to hire another hitman, who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent.

“Just like follow her into a mall parking lot and just cap her and drive off,” the ex-governor candidate said to the undercover FBI agent in a recording played at a trial last year.

Maldonado-Passage's attorneys said that he was not serious when he spoke with an undercover FBI agent.

He was also found guilty of shooting and killing five tigers on his own, which was a violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Maldonado-Passage also tried to disguise animals including lions, tigers and a baby lemur as if they were being transported as a donation or for an exhibit when they were actually being sold, prosecutors said at a trial.

Falsifying records of wildlife transactions for sale across different states like this is a violation of the Lacey Act, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

"Wildlife crime is often connected with other criminal activity such as fraud, narcotics, money-laundering and smuggling. Mr. Maldonado-Passage added murder-for-hire," Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement said in a statement.

Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison this week for charges including 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, U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing said in a statement.

"Today's sentencing of Joseph Maldonado-Passage should serve as a reminder that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate those who orchestrate murder-for-hire or violate U.S. wildlife laws," Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the FBI's Oklahoma City Field Office said in a statement.

'Joe Exotic' once appeared on the Louis Theroux's America's Most Dangerous Pets and showcased some of his animals, including lions and tigers.

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