Editor’s note: A new Netflix documentary series, Tiger King, covers the dark world of private zoos and exotic animal breeding, including an unbelievable murder-for-hire plot that The Post covered. The series debuts on Netflix March 20th, and sheds new light on the rivalry between big cat eccentrics. The following is an excerpt from a Post article from 2018, republished in cooperation with Netflix.
Zookeeper named ‘Joe Exotic’ accused in murder-for-hire plot
By Jackie Salo
Published: September 10, 2018
An Oklahoma zookeeper was indicted for allegedly trying to kill an animal rights activist in a murder-for-hire scheme, officials said.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by the nickname “Joe Exotic,” reportedly tried to order a hit on Carole Baskin, head of a Florida animal sanctuary, in November 2017 after years of clashing over his treatment of lions, tigers and other large cats, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The Justice Department announced Friday that a grand jury indicted the 55-year-old zookeeper on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder.
Maldonado-Passage allegedly gave someone $3,000 last year to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to kill Baskin and promised the hitman thousands more after pulling off the scheme, according to officials.
Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue, was never harmed in the plot, authorities said.
“He’s been threatening me for many, many years,” Baskin told The Oklahoman.
Maldonado-Passage — a 2016 US presidential candidate — was arrested Friday in Gulf Breeze, Florida.
If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.