“Tiger King” star Bhagavan “Doc” Antle was 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 proceeds of an operation to smuggle undocumented immigrants across the Mexican border into the US — with his business partner Andrew “Omar” Sawyer, 52, over a fourth-month period, the US Attorney’s Office in South Carolina said.
Antle and Sawyer would launder the cash by providing checks falsely claiming they were payments for construction work being done at Antle’s 50-acre wildlife preserve Myrtle Beach Safari. The checks, however, “were simply a means to allow the recipients to appear to have legitimate income” in reality, according to the criminal complaint.
Both men received a 15% fee of any amount laundered, the US Attorney’s Office said.
Antle was allegedly planning to hide the cash he received by inflating the number of tourists visiting Myrtle Beach Safari. In the past, he used bulk cash receipts to buy animals for which he could not use checks, the complaint alleges.
Antle and Sawyer each face a maximum of 20 year in federal prison if they are convicted of the charges.
Antle — who was featured as a rival of Joe Exotic in the hit Netflix docuseries — was arrested by the FBI and booked into a South Carolina jail Friday, where he remains detained.
He has also been charged with multiple felonies in recent years related to trafficking and abusing exotic animals.
The accusations against Antle go beyond money laundering and animal abuse.
A follow-up Netflix documentary series “Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story” alleged that Antle had 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 a cult-like environment.
Antle told WBTW-TV in December that all the allegations were “absolutely false.”