Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the self-stylized guru who gained attention for his turn in the popular Netflix docuseries Tiger King, has been indicted on charges of alleged wildlife trafficking and money laundering, the U.S. Justice Department announced on Thursday, June 30. A federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment that names Antle along with four other individuals, including two of Antle’s employees and business associates Andrew Jon Sawyer and Meredith Bybee.
The indictment alleges Antle, and at times Swayer and Bybee, along with Vision Quest Ranch owner Charles Sammut and Franklin Drive Thru Safari owner Jason Clay (both for-profit companies housing exotic animals) illegally trafficked wildlife in violation of federal law, including the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act, and made false records regarding that wildlife.
On June 6, Antle was charged with laundering more than $500,000, which federal prosecutors allege was proceeds from a scheme to smuggle people over the Mexican border into the United States, Associated Press reports. The charges against Antle and Sawyer were revealed on Monday. Should they be convicted on the charges, Antle and Sawyer each face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. If convicted, Bybee, Sammut and Clay each face up to five years in federal prison for the charges related to the wildlife trafficking.
According to prosecutors, Antle and Sawyer laundered $505,000 over four months. They allegedly cut checks from businesses they controlled, receiving 15 percent of the money that came through. The checks, prosecutors allege, were falsely made under the guise of payment for construction work at Myrtle Beach Safari but were instead meant to serve as evidence that the recipients had legitimate income. Antle discussed his plan to conceal the cash he received by inflating tourist numbers at his 50-acre (20-hectare) wildlife tropical preserve, according to the complaint that was unsealed on Monday.
Antle was arrested by FBI agents in South Carolina Friday, according to sheriff records. Antle, a prominent animal wrangler and zoo owner featured in a 2015 Rolling Stone profile, was taken in to custody around 5:40 p.m. in Horry County.
The arrest is Antle’s latest tangle with law enforcement, following his indictment on wildlife trafficking, animal cruelty and other charges in late 2020. The indictment came after a months-long investigation conducted by the Animal Law Unit of Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office. Two of Antle’s daughters were also charged with violating the Endangered Species Act and cruelty to animals as a result of the indictment.
Representatives from Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari did not return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
In addition to Antle’s legal woes, additional accusations of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior — much of it from women both previously employed and romantically engaged with Antle — led him to earn his own Tiger King spinoff documentary, released in 2021.
This story was updated on June 6 to include and detail the charges against Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and Andrew Jon Sawyer. This story was updated on June 30 to include the 10-count indictment.