WYNNEWOOD, OK — An Oklahoma zookeeper has been charged in connection with a murder-for-hire scheme in which he allegedly targeted an animal-rights activist, according to authorities.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who is also known by his nickname “Joe Exotic,” reportedly tried to order a hit on Carole Baskin in November 2017. Baskin is the head of Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary.
In a YouTube video dated August 24, 2017, Maldonado-Passage states, “PETA and Carole Baskin at Big Cat Rescue got me on the news again yesterday, but you know what? Who cares? There’s no such thing as bad press.”
Maldonado-Passage allegedly gave an unnamed person $3,000 last year to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to kill Baskin, according to officials. And back in 2016, Malonado-Passage allegedly solicited another unnamed person to “find someone to murder Jane Doe in exchange for money.”
That second person contacted the FBI, and Maldonado-Passage unknowingly met with an undercover federal agent in December 2017 to discuss the details of the hit.
Authorities said that Maldonado-Passage targeted Baskin after years of arguing with him over his treatment of lions and other large cats, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
According to reports, Maldonado-Passage was listed as a 2016 US presidential candidate. He also ran for governor of Oklahoma in 2018, as a Libertarian. In a campaign video, he says, “We all have to get along. Love and respect each other.”
The Justice Department announced on Friday that the 55-year-old zookeeper has been indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for each count.
He would also be subject to up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 per count, according to the Department of Justice.
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Main photo: Joseph Maldonado-Passage, a.k.a “Joe Exotic” [Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office]