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CLAWING BACK ASSETS: THE LESSON CAROLE BASKINS TAUGHT THE TIGER KING AND HIS MOTHER ABOUT FRAUDULENT TRANSFERS

If you’ve seen the true crime documentary series “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”, you may recall Carole Baskins of Big Cat Rescue (“BCR”) sued Joseph Maldonado-Passage f/k/a Joe Schreibvogel a/k/a Joe Exotic in 2013 by for trademark infringement of the BCR logo.  That lawsuit resulted in a judgment of approximately $1 million.

Unfortunately for prevailing plaintiffs everywhere, however, there is no “judgment cashing store” or other automatic mechanism for recovering an award.  Instead, it is incumbent upon the judgment creditor to “execute” on the judgment to locate and seize assets in furtherance of its satisfaction.  That post-trial process alone (also called supplemental proceedings) can be time consuming and expensive, potentially more so than the underlying case itself.

The difficulty of executing on a judgment is exacerbated when the judgment debtor attempts to conceal or fraudulently convey assets to keep them out of the reach of his creditors.  Simply put, a fraudulent conveyance is one in which a debtor attempts to avoid paying a debt by transferring their money or assets to a third party without a reasonably equivalent exchange in value (i.e., “for free”).

In the case of Joe Exotic, he executed a series of deeds transferring title to the 16.4 acre G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park land to his mother in an effort to keep it out of the hands of Baskins and BCR.  In 2016, BCR instituted a separate lawsuit against Joe’s mother, Shirley M. Schreibvogel, for fraudulent transfer to effectively reverse those conveyances and obtain title to the property.

On June 1, 2020, U.S. District Judge Scott L. Palk ruled BCR sufficiently traced the funds to allow the imposition of a constructive trust on the land and other zoo assets formerly owned by Joe Exotic.  A “constructive trust” is an equitable remedy a court can impose to benefit a party wrongfully deprived of its rights in some identifiable property by the involuntary imposition of a quasi-trusteeship on the party holding the property until it is conveyed to the rightful owner.

Ms. Schreibvogel previously admitted her son fraudulently transferred the zoo land to her to avoid his creditors.  Judge Palk ordered that a constructive trust be placed on the land in favor of BCR and that it is also entitled to a constructive trust and equitable lien on several vehicles, buildings, and other personal property at the zoo.  The full order, courtesy of Courthouse News Service, may be found HERE.

Judge Palk further ordered the zoo’s current operator, Jeff Lowe, and his animals vacate the property within 120 days, insure it in the meantime, and pay rent from and after July 1, 2020.  Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for two counts trying to hire a hitman to kill Baskins, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records, and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act (in part, for killing five tigers).  Please click here for our previous coverage of this story.

 

As you may infer from the multiple lawsuits—spanning seven years—between these parties, litigation is often time consuming, expensive, and complex.  If you need help recovering money or other assets owed or belonging to you, please call us at (704) 457-1010 to schedule a consultation.  For more information regarding our firm, attorneys, and practice areas, please visit http://www.lindleylawoffice.com/.

 

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