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Tiger Zoo Owner Accused of Hiring Hit Man to Kill a Critic

'Joe Exotic' allegedly tried to arrange murder of woman who runs animal sanctuary
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2018 9:05 AM CDT
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka "Joe Exotic," in 2013. He's accused of hiring a hit man to kill a "Jane Doe."   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

(Newser) – It's a bizarre and disturbing tale involving tigers, animal rights, and a hit man. Federal authorities have arrested Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka "Joe Exotic," and accused him of trying to arrange the murder of a longtime critic of his roadside tiger zoo in Oklahoma, reports the Pensacola News Journal. The Department of Justice named the target as "Jane Doe," in a news release, but Carole Baskin, who runs a sanctuary called Big Cat Rescue in Florida, has come forward in a video to say she was Maldonado-Passage's intended victim. A post by the rescue group says Maldonado-Passage "had made threats online over a period of years including a video of him shooting in the head a blow up doll dressed to look like Carole and an image hanging her in effigy."

Baskin and Maldonado-Passage have a long history of friction, with Baskin's group accusing him of animal abuse at his private zoo and Maldonado-Passage making no secret of his disdain for Baskin. In 2013, he was ordered to pay a $1 million settlement to her group for trademark infringement after using images from the sanctuary. The feds say Maldonado-Passage first asked someone to recommend a hit man, and that person then directed him to an undercover FBI agent posing as a killer. Maldonado-Passage allegedly paid the impostor $3,000. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because "Joe Exotic" ran for president in 2016 and governor of Oklahoma in 2017. The 55-year-old is now facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. (Read more hit man stories.)

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