'Joe Exotic' accused of crimes against wildlife - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

'Joe Exotic' accused of crimes against wildlife

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Joe "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage with a tiger at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. (File/KTEN) Joe "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage with a tiger at the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. (File/KTEN)
Joseph Maldonado-Passage was booked on September 7, 2018. (Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office) Joseph Maldonado-Passage was booked on September 7, 2018. (Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office)

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, is currently jailed in connection with a murder-for-hire plot.

Now the man best known as the colorful zookeeper at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is also accused of crimes against animals.

A 19-count federal indictment alleges that Maldonado-Passage, 55, violated the Endangered Species Act and falsely labeled wildlife.

According to the indictment, Maldonado Passage was expecting more big cats to arrive at his zoo in 2017 and he needed empty cages in which to house them.

Prosecutors say he shot five tigers at the Wynnewood facility to make room. That's is a violation of the Endangered Species Act.  He faces a separate count for each tiger killed.

Maldonado-Passage also faces charges for offering two tiger cubs for sale in October 2017;  sending a tiger cub to Brown Zoo in Illinois  in 2016; and sending away two other tiger cubs in 2018.

Nine additional charges stem from allegedly violating the Lacey Act, false labeling of wildlife by claiming that wildlife being sent to other was being donated when it was actually being sold.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to combating illegal wildlife trafficking and protecting our wildlife resources for the benefit of future generations," said Acting Assistant Director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Edward Grace in a written statement.

In September, Maldonado-Passage was indicted on two counts of murder-for-hire in connection with an attempt on the life of an executive at a rival exotic animal facility in Florida. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

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