4/2/2019 – I am grateful that justice was served and Joe Schreibvogel-Maldonado-Passage hopefully will serve time in prison and no longer present a threat either to me or to his former big cats. While media attention regarding this trial has primarily focused on the murder for hire charges, there is a much larger significance to the wildlife charges. For years, a network of big cat owners like Passage who have engaged in cruel cub petting schemes and the exhibition of big cats have also been engaging in the illegal sale of tigers and other animals back and forth among themselves simply by checking the box on the USDA transfer form that says “donated” instead of “sale” and quietly paying cash for the animals. During the trial, several big cat owners were specifically mentioned as people Passage had sold tigers to. We believe this illegal practice is common among cub breeders and exhibitors; Bhagavan Antle, Tim Stark, Bill Meadows, Mario Tabraue, Kathy Stearns, Robert Engesser, Jeff Lowe, and Omar Villareal are some of the most notorious. I hope that the detailed evidence of these illegal transfers developed for this trial will lead to more prosecutions to protect captive big cats in this country from this illegal trade.
~ Carole Baskin, Founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue
“Joe Exotic” Convicted Of Murder-For-Hire And Violating Both The Lacey Act And Endangered Species Act
OKLAHOMA CITY – A federal jury has found JOSEPH MALDONADO-PASSAGE, also known as Joseph Allen Maldonado, Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, and “Joe Exotic,” 56, formerly of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, guilty on two counts of hiring someone to murder a woman in Florida, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, announced First Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester.
“The self-described Tiger King was not above the law,” said Mr. Troester. “Rather, the jury only needed a few hours of deliberation before finding him guilty of engaging in a murder-for-hire plot to kill a rival and violating federal laws intended to protect wildlife when he killed multiple tigers, sold tiger cubs, and falsified wildlife records. We are thankful for the jury’s careful attention, deliberation, and verdict in this case.”
“We would like to thank the U.S Attorney’s Office for prosecuting this case and holding individuals accountable for these crimes,” said Phillip Land, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement for the Southwest Region. “We appreciate our state and federal law enforcement partners working together in this investigation.”
On September 5, 2018, a federal grand jury returned an indictment that accused Maldonado-Passage of hiring an unnamed person in November 2017 to murder “Jane Doe” in Florida and also hiring a person who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent to commit that murder. A superseding indictment handed down on November 7, 2018, further alleged Maldonado-Passage falsified forms involving the sale of wildlife in interstate commerce, killed five tigers in October 2017 to make room for cage space for other big cats, and sold and offered to sell tiger cubs in interstate commerce. Because tigers are an endangered species, these alleged killings and sales violated the Endangered Species Act.
During a trial that began on March 25, a jury heard evidence that Maldonado-Passage gave Allen Glover $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and then to Florida to murder Carole Baskin, with a promise to pay thousands more after the deed. Baskin, a critic of Maldonado-Passage’s animal park, owns a tiger refuge in Florida and had secured a million-dollar judgment against Maldonado-Passage’s park.
The evidence further showed that beginning in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly sought someone to murder Baskin in exchange for money, which led to his meeting with an undercover FBI agent on December 8, 2017. The jury heard a recording of his meeting with the agent to discuss details of the planned murder.
In addition to the murder-for-hire counts, the trial included evidence of violations of the Lacey Act, which makes it a crime to falsify records of wildlife transactions in interstate commerce. According to these counts, 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.
Finally, 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.
After only a few hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts on both murder-for-hire counts, eight Lacey Act counts, and nine Endangered Species Act counts.
At sentencing, Maldonado-Passage could be imprisoned on each murder-for-hire count up to ten years. He would also be subject to up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 per count. Each Lacey Act violation could carry a prison term of five years, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release. Each Endangered Species Act count could result in one year in prison, a fine of $100,000, and one year of supervised release.
Maldonado-Passage will remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing, which will take place in approximately ninety days.
This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Green and Charles W. Brown are prosecuting the case.
Reference is made to court filings for further information.
This video shows Joe Exotic instructing his followers on how to hide what really goes on at exotic cat farms from USDA and other officials.
More information on the Joe Exotic Murder for Hire trial:
United States v. Defendant(s) JOSEPH MALDONADO-PASSAGE Case Number 2016R00211 and Court Docket Number 18-CR-00227
Joe Schreibvogel Maldonado-Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” was arrested after being indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on two counts of “murder for hire” for seeking to hire someone to murder Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue. Schreibvogel 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.
“It is important to understand that this is not the isolated act of one crazy bad apple,” Baskin said. “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.”
Schreibvogel ran, in our view, one of the most notorious cub petting roadside zoos in the country in Wynnewood, OK. Years ago he also operated a traveling exhibit that would bring cubs to malls throughout the Midwest and Southwest. When Big Cat Rescue educated the malls about the miserable life this created for the cubs and the malls started cancelling Schreibvogel’s traveling exhibit, Schreibvogel retaliated by renaming his traveling show “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment” in order to confuse the public into thinking the show was operated by Big Cat Rescue. In 2011 Big Cat Rescue sued for violations of its intellectual property rights and in 2013 was granted a consent judgment for over $1 million. Litigation to collect on the judgment has been ongoing since then in Oklahoma.
We are ENORMOUSLY grateful to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the FBI, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma and the U.S. Marshall’s Service for the many months of incredibly hard work that went into this investigation and arrest.
Read the Indictment here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/4844380-Joe-Exotic-Indictment.html
If there are questions that aren’t answered on this page, you might try Scott E. Williams who is the press contact for the US Attorneys office at 405-553-8999.
Perhaps the most important thing I can say about all of this is I believe there wouldn’t be people who rip lion, tiger and liger cubs from their mothers to use as pay to play props gunning to kill those who expose the abuse if Representative Rob Bishop, Chairman of House Committee on Natural Resources, would call up the Big Cat Public Safety Act for a hearing. We have enough votes on both side of the aisle for this bill, banning cub petting to pass, but it can’t move forward until he calls it up for a hearing. It’s HR 1818 / S 2990 and we have 140 co sponsors in the house. It’s time to pass the bill so that it becomes illegal to exploit cubs this way.
Samples of threats: JOE SCHREIBVOGEL THREATS DIRECTED AT CAROLE BASKIN
Video clips of threats
Examples of exotic pet owners and roadside zoo owners saying they should have helped Joe Exotic kill Carole Baskin. Click each to see a larger file.
Barbara Hoffmann was a circus owner with frequent interactions in support of Joe Exotic.
Gretchen Mogensen is part of the Mogensen family which owns a number of roadside zoos, including the ZAA member Gulf Breeze Zoo which was just down the road from 15 San Carlos where Joe Exotic was arrested. Mogensen spent time at Joe Exotic’s facility in Wynnewood, OK and at T.I.G.E.R.S. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. According to the indictment, one of the alleged hit men traveled from Wynnewood to South Carolina. ZAA is the only known organizational opponent to the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Mario Tabraue (who is the man most of the bad guys say they have a connection to and that they can hire to kill Carole Baskin) and “doc Antle” of T.I.G.E.R.S. have also used the same lobbyist, Frank Vitello, to oppose the ban on private possession of big cats. Can this really be a coincidence?
Mike Stapleton, below, is one of the owners who had his tigers seized by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. One of those tigers, Teisha, spent her final days in peace at Big Cat Rescue after ODA asked us to come to get her.
I haven’t run across Olivia Robertson before, but she seems to be claiming credit for brokering Joe Exotic’s cubs to pet owners. She says below, “I just recieved (sic) the best comment vis PM “You’re right we all want her gone…why didn’t we all pitch in”
Ardina Pawloski below says she was a supporter of Tiger Ridge in their alleged bid to break the law in Ohio which resulted in the confiscation of their cats who are being held in sanctuaries pending final resolution of that court case. Four of those cats are at Big Cat Rescue in “witness protection.”
Julie Walker, agreeing with their statements below, was the owner of Serenity Springs at the time of the nation’s largest rescue mission from her decrepit facility in Colorado. 110 big cats had to be relocated. Many had come from Joe Exotic. Five tigers came to Big Cat Rescue in that rescue mission: Priya, Gabrielle, Seth, Andy, and Charaka.
Karl Mitchell, of Big Cat Encounters, below says they have a good point of view.
Kurt Beckleman appears to be connected to the Safari’s Interactive Sanctuary Zoo, run by Lori Ensign. During the time that Jeff Lowe was in jail in Nevada, he alleges that Joe Exotic was selling GW Zoo cats and equipment to all of Joe’s friends. Several online posts suggested Joe was transporting cats to Broken Arrow, which is where it is believed both Kurt Beckleman and Lori Ensign were.
JoDee Craigmile Nilson is a self-proclaimed exotic animal trainer and truck driver. Her memes imply she is agreeing with Donny Miller saying they should have put together a GoFundMe page to raise more money for a better hitman.
Places Joe Exotic Apparently Sent Cats
If you know of other transactions where Joe has bought or sold tigers please let us know by emailing Cat@BigCatRescue.org There have been an awful lot of trips between Joe’s place and “doc” Antle’s place, so any evidence of transfers between those two would be helpful. We expect many, many more were sold and transferred than what appears here. One person claimed that she raised 150 cubs bred by Joe Exotic in 2004 alone.
1) 10/24/10 Joe sent a Tiger to Wildwoods in PA
In 2012 USDA cited Wildwoods for keeping a tiger in a cage only 72 in high and not big enough to move around freely
Photos show tiny, barren, concrete and steel cells for tigers
Exhibits: USDA inspections, three photos of tiny, barren cages
2) 6/21/11 Joe sent a leopard to Jeremy Hinkle
As of 2011, Jeremy Hinkle had racked up 13 bad USDA inspections in 5 yrs
Exhibits: USDA inspections, news from 2011
USDA inspections included:
Failure to provide veterinary care to animals who had broken legs
Dangerous disrepair in big cat cages
Failure to provide shade to the tigers
Filthy conditions and rat infestation of feeding areas
Failure to provide clean drinking water
Improper handling of drugs and medications
Storing a dead lion in the freezer with the animal food
3) 6/25/11 Joe sent three tigers to Noah’s Ark. He sent a 4th tiger too
Park manager says that these tigers were misrepresented to her as cats Joe rescued and did not have room for, but all of them had been born at GW Park and used as photo props. Lost over $100k 2009 and 2010, raising the issue of whether they were being sent to a place that could assure good care long term.
Exhibits: USDA inspections 2008 and 2010, 990 2009-10
USDA inspections 2008 and 2010 included:
Failure to obtain health certificates for wild animals crossing state lines
Improper storage and handling of food items to protect from contamination
4) 7/1/11 Joe sent a leopard to Tiger World and on 8/11/11 sent them a tiger
In 2011 Tiger World was fined by USDA for a long history of violations and their 990 shows them in the red.
Exhibits: USDA inspections 2007-2011, 990s 2009-10, news article trying to send cats to Iraq, photo of tiny barren cage, Born Free press release re USDA revoking owner license and being sold to someone he trained.
USDA inspections included:
Fine $2,571 in 2011 for the improper handling of a tiger, its escape and lack of barricades to protect the public, gave lions and tigers inappropriate toys they had chewed, including plastic barrels with chunks of sharp pieces missing and possibly ingested.
5) 8/4/11 Joe sent a tiger to the Hillcrest Clovis NM Zoo
Exhibits: USDA inspections 2009-2011
USDA inspections included:
Dilapidated cages, insecure doors, missing fences, poor housekeeping and flies and rats in the washroom, news article of zoo guests tormenting animals, facebook pictures of Sooner the tiger, who appears to have come from Joe and is chewing plastic
6) 8/20/11 sent 2 tigers to Robert Engessor of The Zoo
Engessor reportedly has sold lion cubs via the Animal Finder’s Guide
Exhibits: USDA inspections 2007-2011, visitor comments “sad exhibit of miserable animals” and another who said the facility was just as bad
USDA Inspections include:
In 2011 USDA cited The Zoo numerous times for:
Using a 16-week old cub that was unmanageable for interaction and photos
Using a 6-week old lion cub who had not been vaccinated yet for photo ops
Failing to provide proper food and water sources
Failure to provide adequate veterinary care
Failing to provide environmental enrichment to primates
Failing to maintain enclosures and transport trailers
Leopard attacking a 5-year-old girl, causing injuries
In 2007 he was cited for
Using an unvaccinated 6-week old cub for interaction and photos
Failure to keep proper transfer records
7) 10/25/11 Joe sent a tiger to Forever Wild Exotics
On Forever Wild’s website, they state that the person they got the cub from (Joe not mentioned by name) lied to them saying the 12 wk cub was DNA surplus for Indo Chinese breeding program. Had ringworm and was actually 20 weeks old.
Exhibits: 2007 news article that they were in over their heads financially and that if their house went into foreclosure they would euthanize all of their animals, news article bragging that they wrestle with bears, 3 news articles about a leopard being so fat that her belly dragged the ground to the point of gaping holes that had to be sewn shut.
8) 12/18/11 Joe sent *3 tigers, 2 leopards, 1 liger and a serval to Serenity Springs
The very next month the USDA sued them for violations dating back to 2007 for:
No vet from 2007-2010
The deaths of 31 young animals
Failure to vaccinate against distemper and failure to safeguard cats from carriers
Failure to treat ringworm on tiger cubs
Lacking perimeter fence
Performing euthanasia without a vet by cutting the tiger’s throat
Owner bilked a volunteer out of $40,000 after a volunteer was bitten by a tiger (owner was convicted of fraud).
Exhibits: USDA inspections 2007-2011, USDA lawsuit 2012, news article 2006 about dishonest dealing, OSHA report, 990s 2007-2010, Joe’s missing health certificate 1714878 for import 12/11 of *4 tigers, 3 leopards, 2 ligers, 1 serval and a paca, news article bilking volunteer for 40,000 after injury by tiger
9) 02/2012 Joe sent 2 yearling tigers to Doug Terranova Circus in Kaufman, TX
This was just a few months after Terranova was fined 25,000 by USDA for:
Failure to properly handle tigers, elephants, and others
The death of two cubs that were born on the road while the circus was traveling
(offspring of a brother and sister mating)
The third cub was in such poor condition that it was seized by USDA
Failure to maintain proper records
Failure to allow USDA inspections
Exhibiting animals without proper licenses
Joe says he NEVER sends big cats to private owners; only USDA facilities, but these people are not USDA licensed
10) 11/13/09 Joe sent a Leopard and a Liger to Springhill Wildlife Center
They do not have a USDA license
2008 caught trying to sell tiger cubs in WalMart parking lot to Mexicans
Joe issued a press release describing the horrid conditions of the cats at Springhill
Exhibits: Joe issued press release 4/27/08 saying that he was rescuing “two more tigers in jeopardy at the Springhill Wildlife Park in Calvert, TX.” He went on to say that he had rescued 18 tigers from there the year before who were “requiring surgeries and veterinary rehabilitation,” and that many were missing toes and feet from botched declaw jobs, and that one had been hit so hard in the eye that part of her skull had to be removed. 4 news articles about Springhill being busted selling tigers to Mexican nationals in the parking lot of at TX WalMart and 4 photos of same
11) 8/3/10 Joe sent a tiger to Pam Pape in PA
No USDA and no record of her anywhere. (HB: Facility could have a license under a different name, but this is name Joe listed in the census.)
Exhibits: Screenshot of USDA search showing no one by that name and a screen shot of Joe’s facebook page showing that she is not a friend of his there
12) 8/26/11 Joe claims to have sent a tiger to Tammy Thompson in TX
Tammy Thompson had been dead for more than a year if it was the same Tammy Thompson who had been a big cat collector since the 1990s.
Now might be a good time to note that Joe uses Brian Rhyne to set up companies and accounts because Brian Rhyne has been dead for years too.
Exhibits: There is a Tammy Tomson in USDA records. I have a 2010 notation in AbandonedAnimals.xls where her husband called me saying she had died and needed to place her leopard but the phone number is no longer any good
13) 2005 Joe sold three lion cubs to the Amarillo Zoo, TX for $1500 each
Exhibits: 2008 USDA Consent Order which terminated Mr. Azzopardi’s license at the Amarillo Zoo after he was found guilty in 2006 of a federal crime involving the interstate trading in endangered clouded leopards and a white tiger, PeTA factsheet, 4 pages of bad reviews from TripAdvisor
USDA inspections revealed:
Animals standing in mud and waste
Insecure exotic cat caging
14) Capitol of Texas Zoo, Cedar Creek, TX
Cited by USDA for :
Keeping animals in dark or dimly lit quarters
Filthy conditions, incl cages full of matted fur and feces
Lack of barricades
Lack of perimeter fence
Exhibits: USDA inspections 2007-2011, PeTA factsheet
Joe sold cub born around July 7, 2010, for $5000.
(We submitted FOIA request to get import permits from FWC but not arrived)
Exhibits: TBO article 9/14/10 indicating 9-week old white cub came from GW Park and Joe deposition on venue where he says he sold it to her for $5000. USDA inspections 2007-2012, 20 photos of wretched conditions, a visitor’s report of deplorable conditions for the cats, LookOut Mtn lawsuit and Dept Ag complaint that includes is foreclosure and bankruptcy documents, mug shots from bad check charge and a Yelp 2-star rating.
USDA inspections included:
Failure to provide vet care to injured animals
Lack of shelter for tigers
Dilapidated big cat cages
Unsafe handling of dangerous animals with the public
Rusty serval cage
Nails protruding in tiger cages
Poor drainage causing the cats to wade in deep water and mud after rain
Inadequate perimeter fence
Lack of barricades
Refusal to allow inspections
Recently lost lawsuit and ordered to return two gibbons to rightful owners.
Reportedly under investigation by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. Arrested for bad check charges, has multiple entities and multiple bankruptcies.
16) 7/22/2008 Joe sent two tiger cubs to Nay Aug Zoo, PA aka Genesis
Sent two cubs here in the same year that Time Magazine ranked this the fourth worst zoo in the country. The zoo closed in 2009, one year after the cubs arrived. The Nay Aug director noted that one cub came with a case of ringworm that she had been fighting for months and that the cub appears to have a compromised immune system. Director said she had to “donate” to GW to reserve the cubs.
Exhibits: News articles about the cubs coming to Nay Aug and the zoo closing, photos of the decrepit cages.
17) 1/30/11 Joe transferred a white tiger cub to Bill Rutherford of Wild Bill’s, OK
Exhibits: Facebook post by Wild Bill about it, screenshot shows no USDA license
18) 10/15/11 Stapps Circle S Ranch
Exhibits: USDA inspection June 2011, news article about the 2010 cats, news article about 8-week old cub Aug 2011.
USDA inspection contained:
The three tigers were being fed improperly and that the adult tigers had suffered metabolic bone disease as a result
Foreign Zoos where Joe sent cats
19) Joe shipped 2 cougars to Zoological Park Organization, Thailand
Exhibits: PeTA factsheet, document stating that the name above is not the name of a zoo, but is an organization of zoos, so we don’t know exactly where the cat ended up, two photos of people posing with adult tigers and photo of rampant tiger poaching in Thailand, 3 pages of bad TripAdvisor reviews for Thailand’s Phuket Zoo
20) 2000 Joe shipped a cougar to Seoul Grand Park Zoo, Korea
Exhibits: PeTA factsheet, 4 photos of stark conditions at the zoo, a journalist’s review of the zoo, along with photos showing it to be a miserable place for animals
21) Joe shipped a cougar to Sophia Municipal Zoo, Bulgaria
Exhibits: PeTA factsheet and three articles showing barren cages and discussing the lack of funding for heating and animal care due to Bulgaria’s political unrest
22) Joe sent 2 eleven-month-old tigers to Ryan Easley Show Me Tigers Circus on 1/28/12
Exhibits: USDA reports from 2011 and 2012 citing that animals were living in transport cages and some cages were unsafe. Also that the animals had cuts on them.
23) Joe claimed Exchange/Transfer to Jamie Palazzo on 9/25/09
Exhibits: USDA order fining Palazzo $10,000 and suspending the license for three years on 5/10/10 in a lawsuit that had been pending since 2007. Many 2009-2010 USDA inspections showing a lack of proper vet care, no shot records, and many repeated violations.
24) Joe claimed to donate 2 Siberian Tigers to Teresa Shaffer on 9/26/09
Exhibits: USDA inspections from 2010 and 2011 showing that animals were being kept in incompatible groups and not providing proper dens and shelter.
25) Joe claimed to donate two 7 mo old bears to Dodge City Zoo on 10/08/11
Exhibits: TripAdvisor visitor reviews only give this “zoo” 3 out of 5 stars and 3 USDA inspections from 2010 and 2011 stating that cages were in poor repair, insufficient shelter or dens and dangerous gaps in rusty cages.
26) Joe claimed to donate 6 adult lions and 2 adult bears to Gregg Woody 11/11/08
Exhibits: 8 bad USDA inspections from 2010-2012 including a bear biting a keeper, lack of proper barriers, cats kept in transport wagons, cages too small and dilapidated, no shelter for big cats, sharp edges in cages, lack of vet care and refusing to allow access for inspections. Joe’s census says that he loaned Gregg Woody a white tiger cub DOB 4/17/11 (Galiath x Norma Gene) who died while in his care. No transfer USDA form, nor health certificate on this cub, but it is likely that he sent the cub to be a photo prop, which means the cub had probably already died before Joe sent Woody 6 more lions and 2 bears.
27) Joe transferred 2 6mo old tigers to Sue Pearce in FL on 11/5/11
Exhibits: 6 bad USDA inspections in just 2011 and 2012 including repeated violations on 12 issues, dead lemurs found, spoiled meat, platforms are chewed and clawed and splintered, and failure to provide proper vet care and follow up care.
She was later shut down due to conditions there.
28) Charlotte Turton claims to have paid Joe for 4 day old cub 5/6/2009
Exhibits: Charlotte does not have a USDA license under her name. Charlotte’s facebook photos and text saying: Charlotte Turton aah i thought you knew… I adopted this baby when she was only 4 days old from a cat sanctuary in Oklahoma. I got to play with her for about a month and a half then she went out on the road with the traveling magic show.. then without letting me know they gave her to a facility in Illinois. if you look through my albums you can see her pics from day 4 forward
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