- Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle, 63, oversaw the sale or purchase of cheetah, lion and tiger cubs as well as a baby chimpanzee
- The court found he hid payments for animals as ‘donations’ to his nonprofit
- He came to fame in the hit Netflix series Tiger King
Tiger King star Doc Antle is facing up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to animal trafficking and money laundering on Monday.
Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle, 63, oversaw the sale or purchase of cheetah, lion and tiger cubs as well as a baby chimpanzee – all which are protected and endangered species.
Antle came to fame on the hit-Netflix show Tiger King which followed the life of Joe Exotic, an animal park owner who is now serving a 21-year prison sentence for trying to hire two different men to kill animal welfare activist Carol Baskin.
The court found that Antle hid payments for animals as ‘donations’ to his nonprofit organisation, The Rare Species Fund.
As well as his nonprofit, Antle runs Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina which offers tours and encounters with exotic wildlife.
Doc Antle pleaded guilty to animal trafficking and money laundering on Monday
He oversaw the sale or purchase of cheetah, lion and tiger cubs as well as a baby chimpanzee
In Tiger King, Antle is portrayed as Exotic’s mentor. He is also shown to have a cult-like approach to business, as a polygamist with a string of devoted female employee followers.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim said: ‘The defendant held himself out as a conservationist, yet repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals and then tried to cover up those violations.’
Now he faces a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, fines up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release for each count.
Between September 2018 and May 2020 Antle directed the sale or purchase of seven animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, including two cheetah cubs, two lion cubs, two tigers, and one chimpanzee.
He also hid transactions using bulk cash payments and forged paperwork in addition to directing payments toward his nonprofit organization allowing him to classify the payments as donations.
Investigators also found evidence that Antle and a co-conspirator had also used money made through the transportation and harbouring of illegal immigrants.
In a separate case, a Virginia jury in June convicted him of two counts of wildlife trafficking and two counts of conspiring to traffic wildlife after purchasing the animals, which he intended to showcase outside his business in South Carolina.
They cleared him of five counts of animal cruelty, while the judge in that case dismissed four more animal cruelty charges he faced and all charges against his two daughters.
Antle with a tiger over his shoulder. He appeared in the wildly popular 2020 Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, shedding light on big cat breeders and private zoos in the U
Antle posing with big cats. Antle was sentenced on Tuesday by a Frederick County judge to two years in prison with time suspended for each charge, to run concurrently
Antle’s history of violations dates back to 1989 when he received a fine from the US Department of Agriculture for abandoning deer and peacocks at his zoo in Virginia.
He has since amassed more than 35 USDA violations for mistreatment of animals.
He’s also faced criticism from PETA for allowing celebrity guests like Beyoncé, Floyd Mayweather, and Larsa Pippen to physically interact with wild animals at his park.
He was also part of Britney Spears’ iconic 2001 I’m a Slave 4 U VMAs performance, during which he was the animal handler.
Spears, 40, started the show inside a cage with Antle and a liger – a hybrid of a tiger mother and lion father – then walked onto the stage where she danced with a python wrapped around her shoulders.