Foe of ‘Tiger King’ Zookeeper Granted Oklahoma Property

Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property near Tampa, Fla., in July 2017. (Loren Elliott/Tampa Bay Times via AP, File)

OKLAHOMA CITY (CN) — A federal judge granted Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue control Monday of imprisoned reality TV star Joe Exotic’s former zoo properties in Oklahoma, finding they were fraudulently transferred to avoid paying her under a $1 million trademark judgment.

U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk in Oklahoma City ruled the Tampa-based Big Cat Rescue “has sufficiently traced funds to allow for the imposition of a constructive trust” under state law regarding the 16.4-acre Wynnewood property formerly owned by Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage aka Exotic.

“Big Cat Rescue’s constructive trust and equitable lien in and to the buildings shall survive any physical or title transfer of the building and shall follow any proceeds, except as to a good faith purchased for value,” the 11-page order states.

Joseph Maldonado-Passage aka Joe Exotic. (Santa Rosa County Jail via AP, File)

Big Cat Rescue sued Exotic’s mother, Shirley M. Schreibvogel, in 2016, claiming fraudulent transfer of the property featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King” docuseries.

“Schreibvogel later admitted under oath that the zoo land was transferred to her by Joe Maldonado to remove it from the reach of creditors, including BCR, should BCR win its Florida lawsuit,” the complaint states. “Schreibvogel also admitted in 2015, via a confession of judgment she entered into to resolve a lawsuit filed against he by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee overseeing Joe Maldonado’s personal bankruptcy estate, that the zoo land was fraudulently transferred to her by Joe Maldonado in 2011 to avoid his creditors.”

Big Cat Rescue is also awarded control of several cars and cabins on the property. Judge Palk further ordered the defendants to require their current zoo operator tenant to leave within 120 days and remove all the zoo animals on the property.

Baskin and Exotic became household names in March when “Tiger King” debuted. The show followed the eccentric personalities in the big cat enthusiast community, centering on Exotic and his feud with Baskin that resulted in an Oklahoma federal jury convicting him in 2019 of trying to hire a hitman to murder her.

Jurors only needed a few hours to convict Exotic on two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.

Prosecutors said during trial that Exotic tried to have Baskin killed since 2016 and he offered undercover federal agents $10,000 to do the job.

Palk also presided over Exotic’s criminal case. The judge sentenced Exotic to 22 years in federal prison in January, citing his reluctance to accept responsibility for his crimes.

Serving as his own attorney while behind bars, Exotic later filed a $93 million lawsuit against several federal agencies that he claims are in a vast conspiracy to take his animals away from him.

Palk was assigned to that case as well and declined Exotic’s request to recuse himself. Exotic accuses the judge of being a biased animal rights advocate.

Attorneys for Big Cat Rescue did not immediately respond to an email message requesting comment after the ruling. The defendants could not be reached for comment, as a phone number listed by the court was disconnected Monday afternoon.

Exotic had gained a cult following on YouTube in the years before “Tiger King,” regularly posting videos featuring his flamboyant blonde mullet while swearing, firing guns and wrestling with his animals. Some of his highest-viewed videos feature him lip-synching to original country music songs about his animals and about Baskin, including one where he accuses her of killing her husband and feeding him to her tigers.

Exotic is currently being held at Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Texas. He was transferred to the medical prison in March when the Oklahoma county jail he was at had other inmates test positive for Covid-19.

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