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A federal grand jury has indicted Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, one of the stars of “Tiger King,” on charges of wildlife trafficking and money laundering after he was arrested earlier this month.
Antle — who is the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, a wildlife preserve in South Carolina — gained national attention from his appearances in the Netflix documentary series, which focuses on Oklahoma zoo operator Joe Exotic. Exotic has been accused of mistreating wildlife and is serving a prison sentence for planning to kill Carole Baskin, a rival.
The grand jury also issued indictments against Andrew Sawyer and Meredith Bybee, two of Antle’s employees. Charles Sammut, the owner of Vision Quest Ranch in California, and Jason Clay, the owner of Franklin Drive Thru Safari in Texas, were also indicted.
The indictment alleges that Antle, at times along with Bybee, Sammut and Clay, illegally trafficked animals including lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee and produced false records on them, according to an FBI release.
The release states that the indictment also accuses Antle and Sawyer of laundering more than $500,000 in cash that they thought were proceeds from an operation to smuggle undocumented immigrants into the United States across the Mexican border. Antle used bulk cash receipts to buy animals that he could not write checks for and planned to cover it up by inflating the number of tourists he received at his wildlife preserve, the indictment states.
Antle and Sawyer both face up to 20 years in prison for money laundering. All five defendants face up to five years for wildlife trafficking.
A federal judge set a $250,000 bond for Antle, and he will be confined to his wildlife preserve in South Carolina.
Antle is also facing a series of charges for other alleged violations of the law. He is facing two felony counts of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking, 13 misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and a charge of animal cruelty in Virginia.
He has received more than 35 Department of Agriculture violations for mistreating animals throughout his career.