‘Tiger King’ star accused of trafficking endangered animals

'Tiger King' star accused of trafficking endangered animals

Sydney, 2022-06-30 17:09:34. ‘Tiger King’ star accused of trafficking endangered animals

Columbia, South Carolina –

Federal prosecutors in South Carolina said Thursday that the “Tiger King” star Bhagavan “Doc” Antle is accused of buying or selling endangered lemurs, leopards and chimpanzees without the required paperwork.

The latest charges come on top of the money laundering charges, with authorities saying Antle tried to hide more than half a million dollars made in an operation to smuggle people across the Mexican border into the United States.

Antle has appeared prominently in “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” a 2020 Netflix documentary short series focused on tiger breeders and private zoo operators in the United States. The series focused heavily on Oklahoma Zoo operator Joe Exotic, who was also an animal target who was convicted of a plot to kill his rival, Carol Baskin.

The US Endangered Species Act requires permission to purchase or transfer any endangered species in captivity, and prosecutors said Antley, two of his employees and safari owners in Texas and California, violated the law.

Federal prosecutors said Charles Sammot, operator of the Vision Quest Ranch in Salians, California, exchanged two red lemurs with the Antle in June 2018.

Samut told The Associated Press by phone Thursday that the allegations in the indictments are “full of misinformation.”

Samut said he would not specify what was wrong because he had a criminal case now pending, but added that he felt the problems would “soon be resolved”.

Intel was also accused of exchanging a chimpanzee with Franklin Drive via a safari in Franklin, Texas. Owner Jason Clay did not send a phone message and did not list an attorney in court records.

Sammut, 61, and Clay, 42, are charged with wildlife trafficking and violating the Endangered Species Act. If convicted, they face up to five years in prison.

Court documents said Antley, 62, and Myrtle Beach Safari employee Meredith Baby either bought or sold two young Panthers, though details about who was involved in the alleged deal were not in federal indictments.

Antle’s lawyers did not respond to an email Thursday and court records did not mention an attorney for Bybee, 51.

Antle and another employee, Andrew Jon Sawyer, 52, were charged earlier in June with money laundering.

Prosecutors said the men wrote checks for $505,000 that were supposed to be for construction work on the Myrtle Beach Safari, but were in fact payments to help smuggle people from Mexico to the United States.

Prosecutors said Antle attempted to conceal the scheme by inflating the tourist numbers at the 50-acre (20 ha) tropical wildlife sanctuary.

Prosecutors said he had previously used large cash receipts to purchase animals for which he could not use the checks.

Animal advocates have long accused Antle of mistreating lions and other wildlife. He was indicted in Virginia in 2020 on charges of animal cruelty and wildlife trafficking.

In Virginia, Antle faces two felony counts of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy counts of wildlife trafficking, as well as 13 misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and two counts of animal cruelty linked to the lion cubs trade. The charges are scheduled to go to trial next month.

Antle has a history of recorded abuse, dating back to 1989, when he was fined by the US Department of Agriculture for abandoning deer and peacocks at his Virginia zoo. Over the years, he has had over 35 USDA animal abuse violations.

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