HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Myrtle Beach Safari’s “Doc” Antle has been thrust into the spotlight — and faced multiple criminal accusations — in the two years since Netflix first aired Tiger King.

The series follows the ongoing, dramatic saga of individuals involved in the big cat trade, including Joe Exotic, who is currently facing decades in prison, and Carole Baskin, an animal welfare activist who Exotic has been convicted of hiring two hitmen to kill.

Within weeks of its March 20, 2020 release date, Netflix claimed the series was watched more than 64 million households.

Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, popularized in the series, has blasted it as inaccurate. Antle, who has also gone by the name Kevin Antle, claims to have a doctorate degree in medicine from China.

Since then, Antle has faced a slew of charges in relation to money laundering and animal trafficking claims. The cases remain ongoing and Antle remains out of jail on bond.

Here is a time of important dates in the cases:

March 27, 2020 – Antle calls Tiger King “sensationalized entertainment”

“We are very disappointed that our facility was mentioned in the new Netflix series,” Antle said in an Instagram post. “It is important to understand that this series is not a documentary; it’s sensationalized entertainment with paid participants.”

Oct. 9, 2020 – Antle indicted on wildlife trafficking charges in Virginia

According to an investigation by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s Animal Law Unit, Antle and Keith A. Wilson, the owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Frederick County, Virginia, trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari park.

Antle was charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

His daughters were also facing charges. Tawny Antle was charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and one misdemeanor count of violating the Endangered Species Act, and Tilakum Watterson was charged with two misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanor counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.

Herring’s office said a months-long investigation led to the charges, including a search of Antle’s South Carolina property in December 2019.

Nov. 6, 2020 – PETA files complaint to USDA over “dangerous stunt” at Myrtle Beach Safari

In a statement sent to News13, PETA said the complaint was submitted after a video of Lil Pump being lifted by Bubbles the elephant and posing in a swimming pool with a tiger.

“Another captive tiger just tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but the recently indicted ‘Doc’ Antle hasn’t let federal recommendations against cub-petting stop his search for a little limelight,” PETA said. “Tigers and elephants used for photo ops are caged, chained, and beaten into submission, and they’re dangerous wild animals.

Nov. 11, 2020 – Antle receives $10,000 bond for Virginia wildlife trafficking charges

Antle’s defense agreed to a $10,000 unsecure bond with two conditions — he can’t travel outside of the US without permission from the Court or Attorney General. He also must be on good behavior in all jurisdictions. This does not include a surrender of passport.

 Virginia officials say Antle and Keith Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Wild Animal Park in Virginia, trafficked lion cubs between Virginia and Myrtle Beach Safari.

Antle has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty.

Both men were indicted the following month by a grand jury in Frederick County, Virginia, along with two of Doc Antle’s daughters.

April 11, 2021 – Monkey escapes Myrtle Beach Safari, bites woman

A woman sued Myrtle Beach Safari and its owner, Tiger King’s Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, in February 2022 after she said a monkey escaped the zoo and bit her inside her home, according to court documents.

Shirley Ann Smothers claims in initial court documents that a monkey escaped from the zoo on April 21, 2021, and bit her at her Socastee-area home after the primate was “negligently and recklessly allowed to wander from [the zoo’s] premises.”

The documents claim that she was at home when she was startled by a noise on her deck. When she opened the door, she saw a monkey sitting on the railing, which then lunged at her and bit her left arm.

The zoo knew that the monkey had a tendency to “get loose,” according to the documents, which claim that Myrtle Beach Safari was negligent in letting it escape. The zoo also should have implemented measures to prevent animals from escaping and should have warned neighbors, according to the lawsuit.

Antle’s legal answer to the lawsuit in March denies the allegations and points the blame on Smothers, claiming that “Any damages sustained by the Plaintiff as alleged in her Complaint were due to and caused by the negligence, carelessness and recklessness of the Plaintiff and her failure to act with reasonable care for her own safety and well-being at the time and place in question.”

He asked for the lawsuit to be dismissed, claiming that she “assumed the risk of participating in any activities” that took place at her home, according to the lawsuit.

Sept. 23, 2021 – Netflix announces Tiger King 2

Netflix promised the sequel would bring “more madness and mayhem” as it followed the figures depicted in the original Tiger King.

Dec. 10, 2021 – Antle denies allegations of sex with underage girls

Antle denied all allegations made in a new three-part docuseries that premiered on Netflix.

The people featured in “Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story,” many of which either worked with Antle or had relationships with him when he lived in Virginia in the 1980s, accused him of having sexual relationships with multiple minors as an adult, said he conspired to forge the signature of a 15-year-old’s father in order to become legally married to her, physically abused multiple women and used deceptive financial practices as it relates to a fundraising organization.

Multiple women said during the show that they had sexual relationships with Antle when they were just 14 or 15 years old. When asked about these claims, he denied them and said they were, “absolutely false”.

Antle was asked if he conspired to forge the signature of a 15-year-old’s father in order to be legally married to her. He denied the claim and says he doesn’t recognize the signature on the alleged forged document that was presented on the show. Antle said nothing was forged and he’s not sure the paperwork seen on the show is authentic.

He did admit to marrying the 15-year-old girl while on a honeymoon to Myrtle Beach, before he moved to the area, but said they had the permission from the girl’s parents. He also said the girl was almost 16 years old at the time. He referred to this marriage as a mistake and said they got divorced after about six months.

Dec. 14, 2021 – Antle calls Tiger King series “a wild tabloid tale”

Antle denied all allegations made against him in Netflix’s Tiger King franchise, blasting the series he calls “entirely a theft.”

“They made stuff up to create a program that someone would watch, they never said it was a documentary, no one says it’s the truth, they just put it out there as a wild tabloid tale,” Antle, the owner of the Myrtle Beach Safari Park, told News13. “Everything that was the truth in ‘Tiger King’ was kind of taken away and given back in ‘Tiger King 2’ as a lie, well that’s all they got is a crazy set of stories that are half-truths that never really happened.”

“Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story,” is a follow-up to the massively popular series that debuted last year. The new, three-part series contains interviews with people who have either worked with him, or had relationships with him, when he lived in Virginia in the 1980s. The allegations include that he had sexual relationships with multiple minors when he was an adult, that he conspired to forge the signature of a 15-year-old’s father so he could legally marry her, that he physically abused multiple women and that he used deceptive financial practices as it relates to a fundraising organization.

Antle denies all the accusations and said a short-term marriage to a 15-year-old was approved by the girl’s father. 

He also claims that PETA — which he refers to as the “modern-day Al-Qaeda” — is responsible for the accusations about him taking money from his rare species fund and mishandling animals.

Antle claims that no one from the series reached out to him to be a part of the new “Tiger King” installments, calling the original “entirely a theft. He said the show stole 235 images of him and used them without his consent.

June 3, 2022 – Antle booked in Horry County jail

No information on charges were immediately available after the FBI booked Antle into the J. Reuben Long Detention Center.

PETA celebrated the development.

“It’s fitting that ‘Doc’ Antle is behind bars after years of locking up the endangered animals he uses in tawdry photo ops,” PETA said in the statement. “His legal woes are mounting, as PETA recently blew the whistle on his apparent “charity” scam, and the end to his reign of terrorizing tiger cubs can’t come soon enough.”

June 5, 2022 – South Carolina Secretary of State’s office tells nonprofit it missed deadline

The South Carolina Secretary of State’s office alerted Antle’s nonprofit, the Rare Species Fund, that it had missed the May 15 deadline to file its annual financial report. The charity is registered under the name Preservation Station.

Its nonprofit status is currently listed as “expired” and it is no longer able to legally solicit or accept donations in South Carolina or Florida.

The state was also investigating the nonprofit after receiving a complaint from PETA, according to authorities.

PETA had also asked the IRS to investigate the Rare Species Fund, claiming that Antle has used the nonprofit to funnel money into his business, Myrtle Beach Safari.

A spokesperson for the IRS told News13 that the agency does not disclose if there is an open investigation into any person, organization or nonprofit.

June 6, 2022 – Antle and employee charged with money laundering

A criminal complaint 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.

June 8, 2022 – Antle’s reported wife forms new company

China York filed an article of incorporation with the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office for Vali Co LLC, which shares the name of a chimpanzee at Myrtle Beach Safari.

The address for the company is listed as the same as Myrtle Beach Safari.

No information exists online for the company. Filed documents from the secretary of state’s office provide no further information beyond the registering agent’s name, the companies’ addresses and the companies’ names.

“I mean, it is really hard to say what exactly those LLCs were created for, but given the timing, I would certainly be suspicious that they were created for the purpose of moving and sheltering some of Doc Antle and Myrtle Beach Safari’s assets in anticipation of the federal government freezing and potentially seizing those assets,” a spokesperson for PETA said.

June 10, 2022 – Antle’s reported wife forms second new company

China York filed an article of incorporation with the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office for another company, Sugriva Co LLC, which shares the name of a chimpanzee at Myrtle Beach Safari.

The address for the company is listed as the same as Myrtle Beach Safari.

No information exists online for the company. Filed documents from the secretary of state’s office provide no further information beyond the registering agent’s name, the companies’ addresses and the companies’ names.

June 17, 2022 – News13 uncovers jump in nonprofit donations for same year scheme allegedly began

Tax documents obtained by News13 show that the Rare Species Fund collected $288,575 in donations in 2016, $216,109 in donations in 2017 and $177,877 in donations in 2018. In 2019, the year the scheme allegedly began, those donations quadrupled to $801,735. Donations decreased to $43,170 the following year.

The documents list that $332,623 was spent on habitat repair and construction in 2019, and $129,041 on it in 2020.

His charges allege that Antle hid the money laundering by stating that he spent it on construction at Myrtle Beach Safari.

June 30, 2022 – Antle indicted by Florence grand jury

Antle was indicted by a federal grand jury in Florence for wildlife trafficking and money laundering charges.

He was charged alongside four other people. Those include 52-year-old Andrew Jon Sawyer, also known as Omar Sawyer, 51-year-old Meredith Bybee, also known as Moksha Bybee, 61-year-old Charles Sammut and 42-year-old Jason Clay.

Sawyer and Bybee are from Myrtle Beach. Summut is from Salinas, California, and Clay is from Franklin, Texas. Bybee is listed as the general manager of Myrtle Beach Safari on the zoo’s online staff list.

Sammut owns Vision Quest Ranch, which housed exotic animal species and sold tours, according to the announcement. Clay owns Franklin Drive Thru Safari, which also has exotic animals and tours.

PETA celebrated the decision.

“Kudos to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for doing what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has refused to do for years: crack down on ‘Doc’ Antle’s endangered-animal exploitation outfit,” PETA wrote in a statement. “PETA will keep pushing the USDA to do its job, revoke Antle’s license, and stop letting him profit from animals’ misery.”

July 13, 2022 – Antle pleads not guilty to three wildlife trafficking charges

Antle pleaded not guilty during a three-minute federal court appearance in Florence.

If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison for each count.

Antle’s attorney, Ryan Beasley, said the charges are from four years ago, and he wasn’t sure why they waited so long to bring the charges. He added that Antle’s animals are “treated better than most humans” and that the charges are “technical issues that the government is trying to get him on.”

July 28, 2022 – Authorities file documents to seize Antle’s Horry County property

A notice of lis pendens was filed for a piece of land at 971 Folly Road, near Myrtle Beach Safari. The action is pending in the state’s district court, as of early August, with documents stating that federal authorities are “seeking judicial forfeiture” of the property.

The address for Myrtle Beach Safari is listed under a business registered in Antle’s daughter’s name, according to government records.

Aug. 31, 2022 – Feds accuse Antle of trying to sell Myrtle Beach Safari after he was arrested

The U.S. government filed a motion to modify Antle’s bond after he allegedly tried to sell Myrtle Beach Safari following his arrest for money laundering. Court documents allege that he tried to sell the safari to Sugriva Co LLC — which was formed by his reported wife days after his arrest.

The government asked the court to modify his bond to ban Antle from transferring the title of Myrtle Beach Safari or any animal listed under the Endangered Species Act, according to the documents.

A letter from York’s attorney said Antle will “Have no ownership or leadership role in operating Sugriva Co LLC. He will not serve on a board or direct the activities of the organization.”

That same month, the Rare Species Fund was moved to a “suspended” status by the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office. The charity’s website states that it’s not accepting donations, which the suspended status bans.

Sept. 14, 2022 – Antle back in court for hearing about bond conditions

After the hearing, Antle’s attorney, Ryan Beasley, said the judge reiterated to Antle not to violate any of the conditions of his bond and not to transfer any property or assets connected to the case. He was granted a $250.000 bond and released from jail in bond.