OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Federal prosecutors say an Oklahoma zookeeper at an exotic animal park and candidate for governor earlier this year has been charged in a murder-for-hire scheme alleging he tried to hire someone to kill a Florida woman.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oklahoma City announced Friday that 55-year-old Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as “Joe Exotic,” was indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder.
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue claims she is the “Jane Doe” listed in court documents.
Baskin alleges in a Facebook post that Maldonado-Passage made threats online over a period of years, including sharing a video of him shooting a sex doll dressed up to look like Baskin and an image hanging her in effigy.
Prosecutors allege Maldonado-Passage tried to hire two separate people to kill “Jane Doe,” who wasn’t harmed. One of the unidentified people he sought to hire connected him with an undercover FBI agent, who met with Maldonado-Passage in December 2017.
Court records don’t list an attorney for Maldonado-Passage, who didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Maldonado-Passage finished third in a three-way Libertarian primary in June.
Baskin issued the following statement on Facebook:
It is important to understand that this is not the isolated act of one crazy bad apple. A significant part of our mission has been to stop mistreatment and exploitation of big cats at roadside zoos, particularly those who rip tiger cubs from their mothers at birth to charge the public to pet and take photos with them. Because Big Cat Rescue has been a leader in working to stop what we view as abuse of big cats and been very effective in our work, I have received multiple death threats over the years, including at one point a number of snakes placed in my mailbox. According to the FBI, animal abuse is highly correlated with human-to-human violence.