Safari owner highlighted in ‘Tiger King’ series pleads guilty in federal case


CHARLESTON, S.C. (WMBF/Gray News) – The Myrtle Beach man who was featured in the Netflix series, Tiger King, has pleaded guilty in his federal case.
Doc Antle, 63, pleaded guilty at the Charleston federal courthouse to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and conspiracy to launder money.
Antle is the owner and operator of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.), also known as the Myrtle Beach Safari. He is also the director of the Rare Species Fund, which is a nonprofit in South Carolina.
The Lacey Act prohibits trafficking of illegally taken wildlife, fish or plants, including animals protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Court documents show in September 2018 he paid a person to travel to Florida and pay about $35,000 for two young cheetahs.
Then in January 2019, Antle sold two lion cubs to an organization in exchange for $15,000, according to the documents.
He’s also made $10,000 in payments to the Rare Species Fund in exchange for two tigers that were transported from South Carolina to Montana in March 2019.
The court documents add that in May 2020, a young chimpanzee was transported from Florida to Myrtle Beach Safari, where Antle paid $200,000 in cash and check for the chimpanzee.
All of the animals involved are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
“The defendant held himself out as a conservationist, yet repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals and then tried to cover up those violations,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Antle then used bulk cash payments to hide the transactions and falsified paperwork to show non-commercial transfers entirely within one state.
He also requested that payments for endangered species be made to his nonprofit so they could appear as “donations.”
The investigation also uncovered evidence of money laundering between February. and April 2022, when Antle and his co-conspirator conducted financial transactions with cash they believed was obtained from transporting and harboring undocumented immigrants.
To conceal and disguise the nature of the illegal cash, Antle would take it and deposit the cash into bank accounts they controlled. Antle and his co-conspirator would then write a check to the person who provided them the cash after taking a 15% fee per transaction.
“This investigation revealed a pattern of illicit wildlife transactions orchestrated by the defendant under the guise of donations and false paperwork,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. “The Service and our partners will continue to hold accountable those involved in wildlife trafficking and other related crimes to ensure the future of all federally protected species. The Service will continue to bring to justice individuals who profit from the illegal trafficking of big cats and endangered species.”
For each count, Antle faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release.
The judge will sentence Antle after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.
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