An animal park operator and former gubernatorial candidate has been indicted in federal court.
Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage, 55, was indicted on two counts of hiring a person to commit murder in the Western District Court of Oklahoma.
Maldonado-Passage was indicted on Sept. 5 and is accused of hiring an unnamed person in November 2017 to murder "Jane Doe" in Florida.
Maldonado-Passage is accused of agreeing to pay the person $3,000 to travel from Oklahoma to South Carolina and then to Florida to carry out the murder.
According to the indictment, Maldonado-Passage agreed to pay thousands more after the murder was committed. The person was made to travel to Dallas to get a fake identification and traveled on Nov. 26, 2017 from Oklahoma to South Carolina.
Maldonado-Passage is also accused of asking a different unnamed person in July 2016 to kill "Jane Doe" in exchange for money.
The second person put Maldonado-Passage in contact with an undercover FBI agent and Maldonado-Passage met with the undercover agent on Dec. 8, 2017, according to the indictment.
"Jane Doe" has not suffered any harm, according to federal law officers.
U.S. Marshals in Gulf Breeze, Florida, arrested Maldonado-Passage on Friday, and he made his initial court appearance in the Pensacola Division of the Northern District of Florida.
Maldonado-Passage dabbled in politics when he made a run for president in 2016 and Oklahoma governor as a Libertarian in 2018. He managed to receive the least amount of votes in Libertarian primary for governor on June 26.
If Maldonado-Passage is found guilty he could be imprisoned up to 10 years on each count and would also be subject to up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement and the FBI with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service.
The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park released the following statement:
The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park would first like to thank the Federal agents involved in this investigation. Because of them, our animals woke up today, in a safer place.
This has been an exhaustive process for all involved, but we could not be more pleased with the outcome.
Now everyone's focus can go back to providing our animals with the love and care they deserve.
Never again will this narcissistic man negatively impact this zoo or it's inhabitants. We hope his incarceration begins a healing process in this industry .
We may have philosophical differences with Joe's alleged victim, but we hope our assistance in his arrest, provides the Baskin family some level of comfort and hope for the future .
We wish we could tell you that this ends the fiasco that was "Joe Exotic", Unfortunately, this is the tip of a very large iceberg.
The important thing to know, is the animals here are finally safe and back in the loving care and supervision of the park owners.
Stay with News 9 and News9.com for more information as it becomes available.