FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — Tiger King’s Bhagavan “Doc” Antle and an employee of Myrtle Beach Safari — which Antle owns — have been charged with federal money laundering crimes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
News13 first reported Antle’s arrest Friday evening when he was booked into J. Reuben Long Detention Center.
A criminal complaint, unsealed Monday, reveals Antle and Andrew Jon Sawyer, 52, of Myrtle Beach, laundered $505,000 in cash “they believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle illegal immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States,” according to a news release.
Antle and Sawyer “would launder the cash by providing checks from a business controlled by Antle and a business controlled by Sawyer,” according to the release.
The checks falsely stated they were remitted for construction work at the safari. Antle and Sawyer received a 15% fee of the laundered amount, according to the release.
Antle allegedly discussed his plan to conceal the money by inflating tourist numbers at Myrtle Beach Safari, according to a news release.
A confidential informant went to the safari in 2019 to meet with Antle, according to the documents. The informant told an employee that they could assist them with a $200,000 transaction, but that there would be a 6% charge and up to a six-day wait. An employee said they’d alert Antle. Another person later said that Antle wanted a one-time delivery and asked if that fee could be reduced to 5%.
“We do not have enough time to wait,” a text message from Antle reads, according to the documents. “Thx for the offer of help. I had to do it today.”
In March 2021, the informant recorded a meeting with a money launder, who said that Antle had found another way to do the $200,000 transaction, according to the documents. The launderer was also doing a money laundering scheme with others. Another recording later that year mentions $2 million to “buy the moneys,” with the money laundering, stating that the price was too much, and that it would “throw up every red flag in my book.”
That August, the money launderer told the informant that Antle makes “millions and millions and millions,” the documents read. In a separate conversation with Antle, he reportedly told the informant that they can’t communicate through text and to call, because it’s difficult to tap a phone.
“And for them to get a warrant to listen to your phone is almost impossible,” a transcription of the meeting reads in the docuements. “It’s just not done in America very much. They just don’t listen to phones.”
In February, FBI Special Agents initiated a “reverse money laundering” operation, in which agents created a business name and bank account in the name of said business. The business was by name only and did not have employees or offer goods or services, according to the criminal complaint.
Antle expressed nervousness in a meeting later that year about if the money is counterfeit, stating that “something explosive would happen” and that “I believe everybody got killed that did the counterfeit deals,” according to the records.
FBI agents used funds to provide cash to Antle to launder money, according to the complaint.
Agents held three separate cash transactions.
This March, the confidential informant recorded an interview where Antle asked about a female who was being illegally smuggled into the country to work at Myrtle Beach Safari, according to the documents. They discussed the smuggling operation in more detail, including flights the person would take and how the worker would have to walk through a tunnel.
The money for the schemes would be hidden by stating it was being used for construction, including on an “ape house” or on a bathroom, according to the documents.
Antle and Sawyer each face up to 20 years in federal prison if found guilty.
Antle and Sawyer both appeared in person at the federal courthouse in Florence. A bond hearing is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Thursday.