13 Investigates


'Tiger King's' Jeff Lowe uses COVID-19 loophole to quash Las Vegas arrest warrants

Action taken days after 13 Investigation aired
Posted at 6:21 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 17:58:50-04

APRIL 7 UPDATE: Days after a 13 Investigation exposed how "Tiger King's" Jeff Lowe had four outstanding warrants for his arrest in Las Vegas, the big cat owner's lawyer made use of a COVID-19 loophole.

In light of the pandemic, Las Vegas Municipal Court allowed flexibility for outstanding bench warrants.

Upon request to the court, defendants can have warrants quashed and court dates reset.

Lowe's warrants had been outstanding for years after he failed to appear for status checks on his four cases for un-permitted exotic animals and doing business without a license.

Just days after our story aired, Lowe's lawyer contacted the court, got the warrants quashed and was able to get $340 in warrant processing fees waived. Lowe is now expected to appear for a new court date on June 1.

ORIGINAL STORY: A man who illegally cashed in on exotic tiger cubs in Las Vegas is now a household name thanks to the widely popular Netflix documentary series 'Tiger King.'

Big cat owner Jeff Lowe is featured heavily in the series and it was 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears who broke the story about Lowe's troubles here in Las Vegas.

That was in 2018.

Today, Lowe is still a wanted man here.

On Sunday, a Facebook post from Jeff Lowe's Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Garvin County, Oklahoma boasts of “... Two of the busiest days this park has ever seen."

The post continued, "The crowds have been huge since the Netflix show and we have difficulty in controlling that much traffic at one time. At one point today we had cars lined up 1/2 mile down the road."

That in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak where crowd sizes are supposed to be limited to fewer than 10 people.

But flouting the law is business as usual for Lowe, who’s still considered an outlaw in Las Vegas.

As 13 Investigates reported in 2018, Jeff Lowe was convicted for doing business without a license using unpermitted wild animal cubs as fodder for pricey photo ops.

When the City of Las Vegas served a search warrant in November, 2017, they impounded a tiger, a liliger (hybrid cub from mating a liger and a lion) and a lemur.

According to vet records, the two cubs were sick.

As part of the plea agreement, Lowe had to surrender the animals and pay $10,000 in restitution for their care.

In Nov. 2018, Lowe was a no-show in Las Vegas municipal court.

"He is... He is not present," Lowe's attorney Adam Gill told Judge Cedric Kerns at the time. "He's working on restitution payment in Oklahoma. I understand the court's concerns, obviously."

According to the Las Vegas City Attorney, Lowe paid the $10,000 restitution in April, 2019.

But there are still four open cases in Las Vegas with active warrants for failure to complete status checks.

Lowe’s troubles began when animal welfare advocates alerted authorities that Lowe was housing wild animals in valley homes and sneaking them into strip casino hotel rooms in rolling suitcases.

They said Lowe cashed in on the exotic cubs by selling photo ops at private parties with celebrity clients in high roller suites.

"Our big concern here is they're breaking the bond between mother and cub," said Jeff Dixon of the Humane Society of the United States in 2018. "And they're putting the well-being of the animal second to their ability to make money off of them."

On his website at the time, Lowe also advertised the Jungle Bus, which would pick people up on the strip and take them to a "top secret hideout" to play with tigers.

At first, Lowe kept his exotic cubs at a home he rented near Tropical and Rainbow but Las Vegas city marshals raided that house, impounding the animals and more.

"I'm aware of the firearms," Judge Kerns said to Lowe's lawyer in a 2018 hearing. "You've got ATF problems. I'm not even comfortable with him on the street."

A city property report shows marshals impounded multiple semi-automatic handguns and rifles at Lowe's home.

"The firearms belong to another man in another case," Lowe told the judge before being admonished by his lawyer, who interrupted him to say, "Mr. Lowe, don't talk about the firearms at all."

After his trouble in the city, Lowe moved to a rental home in the county near Ann and El Capitan.

Clark County Animal Control tried to make contact with him about more exotic animals in that house but Lowe had already gone back to his home base in Oklahoma.

Lowe’s name has gained nationwide notoriety lately through the 'Tiger King' documentary on Netflix which is based on Lowe's former partner, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as 'Joe Exotic.'

Maldonado-Passage is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence in a murder-for-hire plot for trying to arrange the killing of Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL.

Jeff Lowe helped put Maldonado-Passage behind bars. From prison, Joe Exotic recently filed a federal lawsuit against government wildlife officials, Lowe and others.

In the lawsuit, he writes, "Lowe filed false statements to federal agents. He was the main person in this entrapment scheme to take my zoo for free. Changed my medicine with illegal drugs, stole my animals under fraudulent reasons. Destroyed my house with all my personal property in it. Coached and encouraged the government witnesses to lie under oath."

Lowe did not return calls or text messages for comment.

In his Sunday Facebook post, he wrote about being an agricultural entity, which he claimed allowed his zoo to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic.

He claimed he’d been assured of their exemption and had set up a conference call with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt to confirm the zoo’s ongoing operation under COVID-19 guidelines.

But 13 Investigates spoke to Gov. Stitt's office and they said there was no such thing. No call, no exemption.

As of Monday morning, Garvin County Sheriff Jim Mullett said the Oklahoma attorney general had deemed Lowe's operation non-essential and Lowe closed his gates.

13 Investigates - Send us a tip
Do you have a story idea or tip for 13 Investigates? Fill out the form below.
Are you willing to go on camera?