Feds: Ex-zookeeper offered cash from tiger sales for hit

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Federal prosecutors are accusing an ex-Oklahoma zookeeper and former gubernatorial candidate of trying to pay an FBI agent posing as a hit man with money from selling tigers.

Court documents filed Friday reveal details of what prosecutors say is a December 2017 recording of Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who goes by “Joe Exotic,” negotiating with the undercover agent. The 55-year-old Maldonado-Passage is charged with trying to hire someone to kill the operator of a Florida-based animal sanctuary.

He pleaded not guilty. His attorney didn’t immediately return a call Tuesday seeking comment.

Maldonado-Passage also faces charges of killing tigers and selling cubs in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

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Trial is set for Jan. 8 in Oklahoma City.

Maldonado-Passage operated a zoo in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and ran unsuccessfully for Oklahoma governor this year.

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