Federal court ruling satisfies seven-year-old lien
OKLAHOMA CITY, TAMPA–– U.S. District Court Judge Scott Palk on June 1, 2020 ruled that Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin and her husband, attorney Howard Baskin, have “sufficiently traced funds to allow for the imposition of a constructive trust” on the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.
The ruling means that the facilities, animals, and several vehicles formerly owned by “Joe Exotic,” under his legal names of Joseph Schreibvogel and Joseph Passage-Maldonado, are to be transferred to Big Cat Rescue in satisfaction of a seven-year-old $1 million judgement against “Joe Exotic” for trademark infringement.
Judgement follows murder-for-hire conviction
Palk on January 23, 2020 sentenced “Joe Exotic” to serve 22 years in prison for having sought in 2018 to have Baskin killed.
Convicted of the murder-for-hire plot in April 2019, “Joe Exotic” was convicted at the same time of nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act, by shotgunning five tigers in October 2017 and by illegally offering tiger cubs for sale between November 2016 and March 2018.
“Maldonado ran, in our view,” Baskin explained in 2019 of the origin of the series of cases, “one of the most notorious cub-petting roadside zoos in the country. Years ago he also operated a traveling exhibit that would bring cubs to malls throughout the Midwest and Southwest.
“Joe Exotic” used Big Cat Rescue name
“When Big Cat Rescue educated the malls about the miserable life this created for the cubs and the malls started cancelling Maldonado’s traveling exhibit,” Baskin charged, “Maldonado retaliated by renaming his traveling show ‘Big Cat Rescue Entertainment’ in order to confuse the public into thinking the show was operated by Big Cat Rescue.
“In 2011,” Baskin recounted, “Big Cat Rescue sued for violations of its intellectual property rights and in 2013 was granted a consent judgment for over $1 million. Litigation to collect on the judgment has been ongoing since then.”
Wrote Palk, in an 11-page verdict, “Big Cat Rescue’s constructive trust and equitable lien in and to the buildings [of the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park] shall survive any physical or title transfer of the building and shall follow any proceeds, except as to a good faith purchased for value.”
Tried to avoid lien with property transfer
Palk ruled specifically in a lawsuit filed by Big Cat Rescue in 2016 against Shirley M. Schreibvogel, mother of “Joe Exotic.”
Stated the filing, “[Shirley] Schreibvogel admitted under oath [in other litigation] that the zoo land was transferred to her by Joe Maldonado [“Joe Exotic”] to remove it from the reach of creditors, including Big Cat Rescue. [Shirley] Schreibvogel also admitted in 2015, via a confession of judgment she entered into to resolve a lawsuit filed against her by the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee overseeing Joe Maldonado’s personal bankruptcy estate, that the zoo land was fraudulently transferred to her by Joe Maldonado in 2011 to avoid his creditors.”
Reported Associated Press, “Big Cat Rescue is also awarded control of several cars and cabins on the property. Judge Palk further ordered the defendants to require their current zoo operator tenant,” Jeff Lowe, who reportedly bought the G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in 2018, “to leave within 120 days and remove all the zoo animals on the property.”
Said Baskin on her Facebook page, “I can’t comment but the [report of Palk’s verdict] is accurate and the clock is ticking.”
Added Baskin on June 2, 2020, “Over a year ago Mr. Lowe announced plans to move the animals to a location in Thackerville, Oklahoma, that he has been constructing and he claims will be a better facility. He recently stated that he had funds to complete the zoo and a contractor who could complete it in a few months.
“If the need arises to make other plans to place the animals in new homes,” Baskin said, “Big Cat Rescue and the animal welfare organizations that have previously successfully placed big cats from large facilities in new homes stand ready to assist.”