Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who appeared in Netflix series Tiger King, has pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking and money laundering.
Antle is the owner of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS), also known as Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina.
According to the US Justice Department, Antle conspired to violate the Lacey Act – which prohibits the trafficking of illegally taken wildlife protected by the Endangered Species Act – by directing the sale or purchase of two lion cubs, two tigers, two cheetah cubs and one juvenile chimpanzee between September 2018 and May 2020.
It’s said Antle used bulk cash payments to hide the transactions and falsified paperwork. He is also said to have requested that payments for endangered species be made through his nonprofit organisation, the Rare Species Fund, so they could appear as “donations”.
Between February and April 2022, prosecutors say Antle and a co-conspirator laundered money using cash they believed was obtained by transporting and harbouring illegal immigrants.
For each count, Antle faces a maximum of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release. His guilty plea was accepted by US District Judge Joseph Dawson III, who will sentence Antle after reviewing his sentencing report.
“The defendant held himself out as a conservationist, yet repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals and then tried to cover up those violations,” said Todd Kim, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
“This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to combatting illegal trafficking, which threatens the survival of endangered animals.”
Antle was previously convicted of wildlife trafficking back in June. A jury acquitted him on five counts of animal cruelty.