'Tiger King' star Doc Antle accused of laundering money for human smuggling operation

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·2 min read

New details have emerged regarding the FBI's arrest of Tiger King's Bhagavan "Doc" Antle.

Antle, who starred in Netflix's hit docuseries, was charged with federal money laundering crimes involving more than $500,000. Omar Sawyer, Antle's employee at Myrtle Beach Safari, was also charged. Antle, 62, and Sawyer, 52, were arrested on Friday and are still in custody.

Bhagavan
Bhagavan "Doc" Antle at his preserve in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (Photo: The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

According to the unsealed federal complaint, "over the last four months, Antle and Sawyer laundered $505,000 in cash believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle illegal immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States." A confidential informant worked with the FBI to uncover the scheme. Multiple recorded conversations are laid out in the document with Antle and Sawyer seemingly discussing money laundering. Antle called Sawyer very loyal.

"Antle and Sawyer would launder the cash by providing checks from a business controlled by Antle and a business controlled by Sawyer. Those checks falsely claimed they were remitted for construction work being performed at the Myrtle Beach Safari, when in reality the checks were simply a means to allow the recipients to appear to have legitimate income. In exchange, Antle and Sawyer received a 15% fee of any amount laundered," the United States Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina says in a news release.

Antle purportedly discussed his plan to conceal the cash he received by inflating tourist numbers at his 50-acre wildlife tropical preserve, according to the complaint. "He had used bulk cash receipts to purchase animals for which he could not use checks," the release claims.

Antle and Sawyer each face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for the charges. They appeared in person at the federal courthouse in Florence, S.C. on Monday. A bond hearing has been set for Thursday.

When contacted by Yahoo Entertainment, a spokesperson for the FBI said they have no official comment, but that the criminal complaint speaks for itself.

This is hardly Antle's first run-in with the law.

In 2020, Antle was indicted in Virginia on felony wildlife trafficking and animal cruelty charges. A trial is scheduled for October. He's also been accused of sexual abuse, sleeping with minors and running a cult-like operation, but has denied such claims.

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