Jeff Lowe was ordered to "cease and desist all business operations" at the G.W. Exotic Animal Park on May 1

By Ashley Boucher
June 11, 2020 10:17 PM
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Jeff Lowe and Lauren Lowe: (1)
Jeff Lowe

Jeff Lowe is being sued by the state of Oklahoma for failing to pay thousands of dollars in taxes as the president of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park.

Lowe, who appeared with his wife Lauren in Netflix's docu-series Tiger King, owes just over $50,000, according to a petition filed in Garvin County, Oklahoma, on Wednesday obtained by PETA.

"Jeff Lowe is responsible for withholding, collecting, and remitting taxes owed by the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, LLC to the State of Oklahoma," the document states. "Moreover, Jeff Lowe had, and continues to have, direct control, supervision, and responsibility for filing returns and making payments on behalf" of the park to the state.

"As of May 27, 2020, Great Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, LLC owes approximately $50,274.01 in delinquent taxes," the petition states. The final amount owed, however, could change once all of the park's delinquent returns are filed.

Jeff Lowe and Lauren Dropla
Jeff and Lauren Lowe
| Credit: Ruaridh Connellan

Tax warrants were served to both Lowe and the animal park in December, according to the petition. The warrants show that the animal park owed $47,892.91 and that Lowe owed $47,928.91, for taxes, interest, penalties and other fees from 2016.

On May 1, the park's application to renew its sales tax permit was denied because of "nonpayment of any delinquent tax or penalty," according to a copy of the denial order from the Oklahoma Tax Commission included in the petition filed Wednesday.

Carole Baskin, Jeff Lowe
Carole Baskin, Jeff Lowe
| Credit: Facebook; Ruaridh Connellan/BarcroftImages / Barcroft Media via Getty

The order said that the park must "cease and desist all business operations," and said that "any person engaging in business without a proper permit may be charged with a misdemeanor."

On Friday, Lowe issued a statement saying that the delinquent taxes are a result of Joseph "Joe Exotic" Maldonado-Passage's "mismanagement" of the zoo when he was in control.

"The tax issue you may have heard about dates back to 2016 caused by Joe Exotic when Joe was still in charge of the zoo," Lowe said. "Since he went to jail, I have been fixing many of his mistakes. Although this is Joe’s debt stemming from his mismanagement of the zoo, much like how I am taking care of the animals he abandoned, we are looking into taking care of this as well. My attorney has already reached out to the Oklahoma Tax Commission to find solutions for Joe’s tax issue."

Maldonado-Passage's public defender did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment regarding Lowe's statement.

In its petition, the state of Oklahoma used Lowe's June 2 statement in which he said, "we are still open for business!" as evidence that he has continued to operate after being told not to.

That statement came after Carol Baskin was award control of the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, which was previously owned by Tiger King's main subject, Maldonado-Passage.

Maldonado-Passage is currently in a Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, medical center after he was exposed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Fox 25 previously reported, after he was sentenced to 22 years in prison when he was found guilty in 2019 for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill Baskin.