MYRTLE BEACH, SC (AP) — “Tiger King” star Bhagavan “Doc” Antle has been arrested by the FBI and is expected to appear in court Monday to face federal money laundering charges, a person familiar with the matter said to The Associated Press.
Federal agents arrested the controversial wildlife trainer on Friday and he was arrested in custody at the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway, South Carolina all weekend.
Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina, has a prominent role in Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness, a 2020 Netflix documentary miniseries 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 targeted for animal abuse and convicted of conspiring to murder a rival, Carole Baskin.
The charges against 62-year-old Antle were to be officially announced during a court hearing Monday afternoon in Florence, South Carolina. The allegations relate to money laundering allegations, a person familiar with the matter told the AP on Saturday. The person was unable to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
Animal rights activists have accused Antle of abusing lions and other wildlife. He was charged in Virginia in 2020 with animal cruelty and wildlife trafficking.
In May, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked the IRS to investigate Antle’s Rare Species Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises money for wildlife conservation. PETA claims it is using some of the fund’s money to subsidize its safari location in Socastee, outside of Myrtle Beach.
“It’s fitting that ‘Doc’ Antle is behind bars after years of confining the endangered animals he uses for cheesy photo ops. Its legal woes are mounting as PETA recently exposed its apparent “charity” scam, and the end of its reign of terrorizing tiger cubs can’t come soon enough,” said Debbie Metzler, deputy director of PETA’s Captive Animal Law Enforcement Division, in an explanation.
Meanwhile in Virginia, Antle faces two counts of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to traffic wildlife, and 13 counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and animal cruelty charges related to the trade in lion cubs. Those charges are due to appear in court next month.
Antle has a history of recorded violations 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 more than 35 USDA violations for animal abuse.
Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.