It has been reported that ‘Doc’ Antle, one of the wildlife preserve owners who featured in Netflix’s hit show Tiger King, has pleaded guilty to both animal trafficking and money laundering.
In 2020, Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle was featured in the first season of Tiger King, before being featured in the spin-off documentary Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story in December of the following year. In October of 2020, Antle was charged with two felony counts related to wildlife trafficking and 13 misdemeanours after an investigation by the Attorney General of Virginia. In June last year, he was arrested by the FBI for charges relating to money laundering.
It has now been reported (per Sky), that Antle presided over the sale and purchase of tigers, lion and cheetah cubs and a juvenile chimpanzee, which are all protected as endangered species according to the US Justice Department. The 63-year-old Californian faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 (£202,000) in fines after officials revealed he tried to hide animal payments as donations to his non-profit organisation.
In June this year, a jury cleared the Myrtle Beach Safari and Rare Species Fund owner of five counts of animal cruelty. At the time, the judge also dismissed a further four counts of the same charge, with his two daughters also leaving the court without punishment.
At the time, the Assistant Attorney General, Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said that Antle “held himself out as a conservationist” but “repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals”.
It was also reported in June 2022 that Federal Prosecutors in the case had found evidence that Antle had laundered over $500,000 of the alleged proceeds of an illegal people smuggling operation over the Mexican border into the US. They claim that Antle and Jon Sawyer, one of his employees at Myrtle Beach Safari, laundered more than $505,000 (£402,990) over four months by writing cheques from their businesses. It was also claimed that the pair received 15% of the money they laundered.
Watch the trailer for Tiger King below.