Zookeeper and gubernatorial candidate ‘Joe Exotic’ indicted in murder-for-hire plot

OKLAHOMA CITY – A zookeeper who ran for governor of Oklahoma earlier this year has been indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder.

On Wednesday, a federal grand jury returned an indictment that accuses Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 55, of Wynnewood, of hiring a person in November 2017 to murder ‘Jane Doe’ in Florida. According to the indictment, Maldonado-Passage, who also goes by “Joe Exotic,” gave the person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and then to Florida to carry out the murder.

Joe Exotic allegedly agreed to pay thousands more after the deed. The indictment alleges he had the person travel to Dallas to get fake identification for use in the plot.

According to the indictment, the person traveled from Oklahoma to South Carolina on November 26, 2017.

In the second count, the indictment alleges, beginning in July 2016, Joe Exotic repeatedly asked a different person to find someone to murder Jane Doe in exchange for money.

The second person put Joe Exotic in contact with an undercover FBI agent. He met with the undercover agent on December 8, 2017 to discuss details of the murder.

Jane Doe was not injured.

The U.S. Marshals Service arrested Joe Exotic on Friday in Gulf Breeze, Florida. He will make his initial appearance before a judge Friday in the Pensacola Division of the Northern District of Florida, followed by further proceedings in the Western District of Oklahoma.

If Joe Exotic is found guilty of murder-for-hire, he could be imprisoned on each count up to 10 years. He would also be subject to up to three years of supervised released and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.

The case is a result of an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the FBI with the help from the US Marshals Service. Assistant US Attorneys Amanda Green and Charles W. Brown are prosecuting the case.