OKLAHOMA CITY – A new indictment was issued by a federal grand jury on Wednesday against Joseph Maldonado-Passage, or better known as “Joe Exotic,” alleging he violated the Endangered Species Act and falsely labeled wildlife.
Back in September, Maldonaldo-Passage, 55, former owner of the the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Garvin County, was indicted by an Oklahoma federal grand jury with two counts of murder-for-hire.
According to a new indictment, Maldonaldo-Passage was expecting the “arrival of certain big cats that were to be boarded for a fee at the exotic animal park,” in or around October 2017, and needed to empty cages to house the big cats.
The indictment says Maldonaldo-Passage allegedly “knowingly and unlawfully took the following endangered species of wildlife, by shooting and killing them,” to make room for the animals and lists five counts for five tigers, violating the Endangered Species Act.
Another count under the same violation says he also “knowingly and unlawfully offered for sale in interstate commerce endangered species of wildlife, namely two tiger cubs” in or on October 30, 2017. Three other counts allege the same incident with a male tiger cub sent to Brown Zoo, Illinois in 2016, an 11-week-old tiger female sent to Indiana in 2018 and a 6-week-old tiger female, also in 2018.
The indictment lists nine more counts against Maldonaldo-Passage, saying he violated the Lacey Act: False Labeling of Wildlife. It alleges he “knowingly made and submitted and caused to be made and submitted a false record, account and label for, and a false identification of the following wildlife [lions and tigers sent to other states] with a market value great than $350, that was transported and that was intended to be transported in interstate commerce.”
It continues saying he “specifically designated and caused to be designated on delivery forms and Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) that the wildlife was being donated to the recipient or transported for exhibition only, when he knew the wildlife was being sold interstate commerce.”
The last count alleges Maldonaldo-Passage violated the same act with a 10-week-old lemur and created a delivery form showing that the lemur was donated from himself to Ringling Animal Care in Ringling, Oklahoma, when he allegedly knew the lemur had been sold and transported in interstate commerce.
PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement, Brittany Peet, sent News 4 the following statement regarding these charges:
“This indictment demonstrates respect for every animal who suffered and died at the hands of this shameless, feckless profiteer and serves as a warning to animal exhibitors that no one is above the law. PETA is actively working to ensure that the gavel hits the table for every other “Joe Exotic” who still treats animals as expendable, disposable commodities.”
Maldonado-Passage faces these other counts while also facing charges in the murder-for-hire plot.
He pleaded not guilty in court in September against those charges.