OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma zookeeper at an exotic animal park and candidate for governor earlier this year has been charged in a murder-for-hire scheme alleging he tried to hire someone to kill a Florida woman, federal prosecutors announced on Friday.
Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 55, also known as “Joe Exotic,” was indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder in federal court in Oklahoma City.
Prosecutors allege Maldonado-Passage tried to hire two separate people to kill the woman, who wasn’t harmed. One of the unidentified people he sought to hire connected him with an undercover FBI agent, who met with Maldonado-Passage in December 2017. The indictment, unsealed on Friday, indicated Maldonado-Passage had been arrested.
Court records don’t list an attorney for Maldonado-Passage, who didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
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Known for his blonde mullet and expletive-laden rants on YouTube, Maldonado-Passage finished third in a three-way Libertarian primary in June.
In October 2017, Garvin County authorities investigated after Maldonado-Passage’s then-husband, 23-year-old Travis Maldonado, shot himself in the head in the zoo gift shop. Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes said at the time that witnesses reported Travis Maldonado put a loaded firearm to his head and pulled the trigger to prove the weapon would not fire with the magazine removed.
Maldonado married another man, Dillon Jacob Passage, in December, court records show.
Maldonado’s appeared on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” when he was a 2016 write-in candidate for president.