Joe Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, is suing the government and his former business partner. The star of the hit Netflix docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, is the former roadside zoo owner and big cat animal breeder who was found guilty of a murder-for-hire plot against longtime nemesis and animal activist Carole Baskin and 17 wildlife violations for the killing of five tigers. He has since been sentenced to 22 years and is currently behind bars at the Grady County Jail in Oklahoma, where he’s launched his lawsuit from.
According to the legal docs obtained by ET, Exotic is suing the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Federal Wildlife Service, the latter of which initially launched the investigation that led to his trial, for $78,840,000 for loss of personal property and nearly two decades of “research and care of 200 generic tigers and cross-breeds for 365 days a year.”
More specifically, he claims that the two government agencies placed a “generic tiger” on the endangered species list and was done for the sole purpose of targeting and putting a stop to businesses like his. “The FWS and its agents are clearly enforcing these laws under pressure of the animal rights groups,” Exotic claims.
He adds that it equates to “stealing my property and promoting an animal rights agenda.”
Exotic also alleges that he’s the victim of malicious prosecution and that he was “discriminated against because he is the only person charged with this statute because [he] is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and crossbreeds.”
In addition to going after the two agencies, he’s also named Jeff Lowe, a Las Vegas businessman who eventually took over Exotic’s establishment, for allegedly lying to the government and planting evidence and accusing another former colleague of being an informant.
Exotic claims their actions led to the death of his mother, Shirley, and is seeking $15 million in damages.
In the docuseries, Lowe discusses working with the feds after Exotic’s escalating antics threatened to bring him and others involved in the zoo down. “James [Garretson] brought the FBI and I started spilling my guts,” he says on camera.
It’s also revealed that Baskin sued Exotic’s mother after he allegedly made illegal transfers of funds to her and put titles associated with his zoo in her name.