For Immediate Release
Exotic Cat Keeper Sentenced for Gun Crime
A Canadian national who overstayed his visa to work as a keeper of exotic cats has been sentenced to 28 months in federal prison for a gun crime, announced Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Prerak Shah.
Following two days of trial, in March, a federal jury convicted Paul Michael Malagerio, 65, of unlawful alien in possession of firearms. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix.
At trial, agents testified that they arrested Mr. Malagerio based on an administrative warrant for visa overstay at the Whitley Acres Exotic Ranch in Levelland, Texas in November 2020. Inside his RV, they found an AR-15, a shotgun, and a 9 mm pistol. Mr. Malagerio also had a mountain lion on the property.
(Mr. Malagerio’s unlawful presence in the country prevented him from possessing firearms.)
In jailhouse phone calls, Mr. Malagerio indicated that he knew he was in the United States illegally: “So I’m guilty of it, but can we plead where I can go and pack my stuff, my animals… and leave with my tail between my legs?” he asked. [Audio available to credentialed media upon request.]
During a court proceeding in February, Mr. Malagerio testified that he worked for James Garretson, the exotic cat enthusiast turned FBI informant featured in Netflix's “Tiger King.”
In another jailhouse call, Mr. Malagerio claimed that Mr. Garretson had reported him to immigration authorities, telling a friend, “see, James [Garretson] is the only one that knows where I am and he threatened to do this about a month ago.”
Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Texas Game Wardens. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan Redd and Jeffrey Haag prosecuted the case.