‘Tiger King’: Joe Exotic Went to Jail for More Than One Crime

Netflix’s documentary series, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness, explores the life of big cat breeder and zookeeper, Joe Exotic. It follows the bizarre events that led the 57-year-old to plan the murder-for-hire scheme that landed him in prison. But that wasn’t the only crime he was convicted of. Here’s a list of crimes that sent Joe Exotic to jail.

Joe Exotic: Tiger King
Joe Exotic | Netflix

Who is ‘Tiger King’star Joe Exotic?

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, aka Joe Exotic, is a big cat enthusiast who bred and kept hundreds of exotic animals at his G.W. Zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. His collection included tigers, lions, ligers, bears, and monkeys. 

At the zoo, Maldonado-Passage would breed big cats and allow visitors to pet and take pictures with baby tigers and lions. This part of the business was lucrative for Maldonado-Passage, but it caught the ire of big cat activist, Carole Baskin. 

Baskin openly criticized Maldonado-Passage for breeding big cats, and she claimed that his petting business was endangering the animals. Her activism led to Maldonado-Passage losing business, so he retaliated by humiliating and threatening her on his online TV show. 

Their longtime feud resulted in Maldonado-Passage attempting to hire a hitman to kill Baskin. But he was already under federal investigation, and the hitman he tried to hire was an undercover federal agent. He was charged, tried and convicted on 19 different counts, and sentenced to 22 years in prison in January 2020. 

He was convicted of two counts of murder-for-hire

Carole Baskin in Tiger King
Carole Baskin | Netflix

Maldonado-Passage tried to hire a hitman to kill Baskin on two separate occasions. As documented in Tiger King, in November 2017, he gave Allen Glover $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to Florida to carry out the murder. But Glover backed out, took the money, and disappeared.

Then, a month later, in December 2017, Maldonado-Passage approached an undercover federal agent posing as a hitman. He asked him to murder Baskin, but no money was exchanged. When Glover finally testified against Maldonado-Passage, the federal government was able to prove his intention and crimes. 

Joe Exotic aka ‘The Tiger King’ was charged with eight counts of falsifying records

What happened to 'Tiger King' tigers
Tigers Rescued from G.W. Zoo | Helen H. Richardson/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post

During his trial, prosecutors revealed evidence that proved Maldonado-Passage violated the Lacey Act on eight different occasions by falsifying records of his wildlife transactions.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Maldonado-Passage designated on delivery forms and Certificates of Veterinary Inspection that tigers, lions, and a baby lemur were being donated to the recipient or transported for exhibition only, when he knew they were being sold in interstate commerce.”

The ‘Tiger King’ star was convicted on nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act

Tiger King
Joe Exotic | Netflix

As much as he claimed to be an animal lover, Maldonado-Passage actually ended up harming some of his animals. He was convicted on nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act from 2016 to 2018.

According to the U.S Department of Justice, “the jury heard evidence that Maldonado-Passage personally shot and killed five tigers in October 2017, without a veterinarian present and in violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Joe Exotic was convicted and sentenced on 19 counts

Maldonado-Passage’s sentencing reflected all 19 counts he was convicted of. The court sentence included 108 months for each of the two murder-for-hire counts totaling 216 months; 12 months for each of the Endangered Species Act violations to run concurrently; and 48 months for the Lacey Act violations to run concurrently. 

In total, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to a total of 22 years in prison, with three years of supervised release when he gets out.