'Tiger King': Carole Baskin Granted Ownership of Joe Exotic's Zoo

Joe Exotic's former zoo property in Oklahoma now belongs to Big Cat Rescue owner Carole Baskin, the Tiger King subject's chief rival. A federal judge granted Baskin ownership of the 16.4-acre Wynnewood property previously owned by Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, on Monday. Exotic is now serving a 22-year prison sentence after he was convicted on federal charges related to animal abuse and hiring a hitman to kill Baskin.

U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk found Baskin's Big Cat Rescue "sufficiently traced funds to allow for the imposition of a constructive trust" under state law, reports Courthouse News. The judge ruled that ownership of Exotic's property was fraudulently transferred, so Exotic would not have to pay her a $1 million trademark judgment. "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," Palk ruled.

Big Cat Rescue (BCR) first sued Exotic's mother, Shirley Schreibvogel, in 2016 for fraudulent transfer. Scheibvogel admitted under oath that Exotic turned ownership over to her just to "remove it from the reach of creditors, including BCR, should BCR win its Florida lawsuit," according to the complaint. In 2015, Exotic's mother confessed Exotic transferred the zoo land in 2011 to "avoid his creditors" after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee overseeing his estate sued him.

Baskin also received control of cars and cabins on the Wynnewood zoo land. Palk, who was the same judge who presided over Exotic's criminal trial, said the current zoo operator has to leave within 120 days and take all the zoo animals off the property. Baskin has not commented on the ruling, and the defendants could not be reached because the number listed by the court was disconnected.

Although Exotic was somewhat of a celebrity in Oklahoma due to his political campaigns, he and Baskin became national stars thanks to the success of Netflix's Tiger King documentary series. Netflix said the show drew more than 34.3 million unique viewers after its first 10 days of release in March, just as coronavirus lockdown orders went into effect. The series focused on Exotic and Baskin's rivalry and revealed how Exotic would get his mother to sign paperwork to transfer property to avoid creditors. In 2016, Exitoc sold the zoo to Jeff Lowe, who planned to close the park and move the animals to a new location. The park re-opened earlier this year under the name "Tiger King Park" after Oklahoma lifted its coronavirus restrictions.