By Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON -A federal grand jury in 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 U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.
The indictment alleges that Antle and others illegally trafficked wildlife in violation of federal law, and made false records regarding that wildlife. The animals involved included lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee, the Justice Department said in a statement.
The indictment names Andrew Sawyer, 52; Meredith Bybee, 51; Charles Sammut, 61; and Jason Clay, 42, along with Antle, 62.
Their representatives could not immediately be reached for comment. Antle’s lawyer told a CBS affiliate that the indictment “was nothing we weren’t expecting.”
The indictment also alleged that in recent months Antle and Sawyer laundered more than $500,000 in cash they believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States illegally.
Antle had allegedly used bulk cash receipts to purchase animals for which he could not use checks, and planned to conceal the cash he received by inflating tourist numbers at a wildlife tropical preserve in Myrtle Beach that he owned, according to the indictment.
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.
Antle and 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.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Mark Porter and Rosalba O’Brien)