OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (TNN) - Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced Wednesday to 22 years in prison.
Exotic, the former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park, was convicted of 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.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing in a press release.
“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,” said Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office.
Joe Exotic was arrested in Florida for hiring a person to murder Carole Baskin, the owner of a tiger sanctuary who sued him for trademark infringement in 2011, and was outspoken about Exotic’s treatment of animals at his park. The person he tried to hire to kill Baskin was an FBI agent.
He was also found guilty of killing five of his tigers in 2017, as well as falsifying documents stating various animals were being donated for exhibition when they were actually being sold.
“Wildlife crime is often connected with other criminal activity such as fraud, narcotics, money-laundering and smuggling. Mr. Maldonado-Passage added murder-for-hire,” said Edward Grace, Assistant Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement.
Baskin was not the only outspoken critic of Exotic’s treatment of the animals. PETA has also been critical of the animal park, including posting videos from the park to YouTube. PETA even issued a statement Wednesday saying, “The USDA should have shut down Joe Exotic’s business two decades ago. He may be the first captive-animal abuser to go to prison for killing and trafficking in captive big cats, but he shouldn’t be the last, and PETA is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure that other wildlife abusers and traffickers who sentence animals to a lifetime of cruelty without the possibility of parole follow in Exotic’s prison-bound footsteps.”