The seven-part docuseries introduces the world to a cast of kooky characters — to name just a few, there's Erik Cowie, the stoic head zookeeper at G.W. Zoo who's rarely seen without his sunglasses; Bhagavan "Doc" Antle, the polygamous big-cat breeder from Myrtle Beach; and Jeff Lowe, a scheming businessman who looks like he was created in a Daytona Beach meth lab by mixing equal parts White Claw and diesel fuel.
In the second episode of Tiger King (don't worry — no real spoilers here), viewers meet Mario Tabraue, a media-shy zookeeper from Miami who just so happened to run a massive cocaine ring back in the day. Tabraue was busted by the feds in December 1987 and subsequently convicted on multiple racketeering and drug charges. He was sentenced to 100 years in prison but released in 2003 following a successful appeal.
Tabraue's tale has all the classic marks of a great Miami crime story: a murder involving a machete, the smuggling of exotic animals, and, of course, a shit-ton of yeyo. But if you scratch the surface the teensiest bit deeper, you'll find another interesting layer: a connection to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
It's crazy but true. According to court records, Rubio's brother-in-law Orlando Cicilia worked closely with Tabraue as an operative in a $75 million drug ring that trafficked cocaine across the United States. Cicilia is married to Rubio's older sister, Barbara.
Michael Fisten, a former Miami-Dade homicide detective who plans to write a book about the case, told New Times in 2016 that Cicilia was Tabraue's second-in-command.
"Orlando was heavily involved in cocaine distribution," Fisten said.
Government witnesses say Cicilia stored and packaged coke in a spare bedroom at his house in West Kendall — the same house where a teenage Marco Rubio and his parents lived for a short stint during the summer of 1985. In his memoir, An American Son, Rubio writes that he and his family were shocked when Cicilia was busted alongside Tabraue in '87.
"I was stunned by the news," Rubio writes. "Like my parents, I had never suspected Orlando was involved in a criminal enterprise."
Rubio appears to be a fan of the Netflix series. On Saturday, the senator tweeted a meme from Tiger King to show that he supports extending social distancing to curb the spread of coronavirus:
"Marco Rubio down there in Florida, your name's on the wall of Big Cat Rescue down there... We damn sure ain’t gonna let you become president of the United States, you crooked bastard," Exotic spouts.
please enjoy this clip of joe exotic bashing marco rubio because, of course, carole pic.twitter.com/TVRtEqGm34— Alex Thomas (@AlexThomasDC) March 28, 2020
Nevertheless, Tiger King includes a brief cameo of Exotic at a Rubio political rally. Why is anyone's guess — so we'll leave you to ponder that head-scratcher as you go about your day. Stay safe out there, all you cool cats and kittens!