'Tiger King's' Doc Antle and others indicted over wildlife trafficking

Animals involved included lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee

Bhagavan 'Doc' Antle was indicted on federal money laundering charges. Horry County Sheriff's Office / AP
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A federal grand jury in the US state of South Carolina indicted five people on charges of wildlife trafficking and money laundering, including Doc Antle, who starred in the 2020 Netflix series Tiger King, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.

The indictment alleges that Mr Antle and others illegally trafficked wildlife in breach of federal law and made false records regarding that wildlife.

The animals involved included lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee, the Justice Department said.

The indictment names Andrew Sawyer, Meredith Bybee, Charles Sammut and Jason Clay, along with Mr Antle.

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Their representatives could not immediately be reached for comment. Mr Antle's lawyer told a CBS affiliate that the indictment “was nothing we weren't expecting”.

The indictment also said that in recent months, Mr Antle and Mr Sawyer had laundered more than $500,000 in cash believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle immigrants across the Mexican border into the US.

Mr Antle had reportedly used bulk cash receipts to purchase animals for which he could not use cheques and planned to conceal the cash he received by inflating tourist numbers at a wildlife preserve in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which he owned, the indictment said.

Mr Antle starred in Tiger King, the true crime series set in the world of private zoos and their eccentric owners, which became a worldwide phenomenon when it was aired in March 2020.

He and Mr Sawyer each face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for the charges related to money laundering and each of the five people face up to five years for the charges related to wildlife trafficking.

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Updated: July 01, 2022, 10:13 PM