‘Tiger King’ star Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle has been charged with money laundering and faces up to 20 years in prison, federal prosecutors announced Monday.
Antle, 62, allegedly laundered $505,000 in cash — believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle undocumented immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States — with his business partner Andrew “Omar” Sawyer , 52, over a four-month period, the United States Attorney’s Office in South Carolina said.
Antle and Sawyer were laundering the money by providing checks falsely claiming they were payments for ongoing construction work at Antle’s 50-acre Myrtle Beach Safari wildlife preserve. The checks, however, “were merely a means of allowing recipients to appear to have legitimate income” in reality, according to the criminal complaint.
Both men received charges of 15% of any laundered amount, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
Antle allegedly planned to hide the money he received by inflating the number of tourists visiting Myrtle Beach Safari. In the past, he used bulk cash receipts to purchase animals for which he could not use checks, according to the complaint.
Antle and Sawyer each face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison if convicted of the charges.
Antle – who was introduced as a rival to Joe Exotic in the hit Netflix docuseries – was arrested by the FBI and taken to a South Carolina jail on Friday, where he remains in custody.
He has also been charged with several crimes in recent years related to the trafficking and abuse of exotic animals.
The charges against Antle go beyond money laundering and animal abuse.
A Netflix follow-up documentary series “Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story” alleged that Antle groomed and had sex with minors, abused women and defrauded a wildlife charity.
Former employees said he used his position as owner of Myrtle Beach Safari to create an environment of worship.
Antle told WBTW-TV in December that all of the allegations were “absolutely false.”
New York Post