MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, owner of Myrtle Beach Safari and featured on Netflix’s Tiger King, is scheduled for a virtual court appearance on Friday in Virginia, authorities confirmed to News13.
Antle is currently in the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County without a bond decision from the judge for charges related to an alleged money laundering scheme.
The two alleged accomplices, William Dallis and Andrew Sawyer, were granted bond and have been released from jail.
The money laundering scheme of which Antle is accused of taking part in would be a violation of bond conditions for charges in Virginia where he faces charges of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to wildlife trafficking, according to officials.
News13 previously reported Antle could face extradition to Virginia if he was granted bond.
Antle’s virtual appearance is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Frederick Circuit Court in Virginia, according to officials.
One of Tiger King’s Bhagavan “Doc” Antle’s reported wives has registered two businesses since Antle’s arrest earlier this month — both with addresses listed as Myrtle Beach Safari, which he owns.
China York filed articles of organization with the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office for Vali Co LLC and Sugriva Co LLC on June 8 and June 10, respectively. Antle was arrested on June 3 in Horry County and is facing federal charges for money laundering.
No information exists online for either 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.
York is listed as an officer/director for Antle’s nonprofit organization, the Rare Species Fund, which is registered under the name Preservation Station.
A spokesperson for the FBI told News13 that it cannot provide information on if the new businesses are part of an investigation.
News13 reached out to Antle’s lawyer multiple times for comment and were met with a busy tone each time.
The businesses share a name with two of Antle’s chimpanzees, PETA told News13 on Tuesday.
“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.
Antle’s nonprofit organization can no longer solicit donations in South Carolina and is currently under investigation by the state, authorities confirmed to News13 on Friday.
The South Carolina Secretary of State’s office notified the nonprofit on June 5 that it had missed the deadline to file its required annual report for the 2021 fiscal year, according to a spokesperson.
Preservation Station was required to submit its annual financial report on May 15.
The notification came two days after Antle was arrested in Horry County on allegations of money laundering.
Documents obtained by News13 earlier this week also show that the nonprofit saw its donations quadruple in 2019, the same year that the money laundering allegedly began.
The state is also investigating the nonprofit after receiving a complaint from PETA, according to authorities.
“It’s wonderful to hear that the state is investigating PETA’s complaint and taking it seriously, as it should, and that we hope they will pursue all available penalties if they are able to confirm PETA’s allegations, which we suspect that they will,” a PETA spokesperson previously told News13.
PETA has 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.
“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 a separate statement earlier this month. “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.”
Antle is listed as the president, CEO and chief financial officer for the Rare Species Fund, according to documents from the South Carolina Secretary of State’s office.
The Rare Species Fund is also listed as a nonprofit in Florida, where its status is set to expire on July 1, 2023. Its “statement of purpose” is listed as furthering the protection of and educating the public on tigers, elephants, rhinos, lions and other animals. Documents show that it reports that all of its funds are used on program services expenses and that no money is spent on administrative salaries or fundraising efforts.
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.
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.”
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.
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 and Sawyer each face up to 20 years in federal prison if found guilty. A third person, Bill Dallis, has also been arrested in connection with the case.
A decision regarding Antle’s bond wasn’t made at a hearing on Thursday. The prosecution argued that Antle is a flight risk due to overseas contacts, his claims he knows people who can get him a fake social security card and that he may destroy evidence. His defense said he has fully cooperated with law enforcement, has lived in the area for nearly three decades and does not intend to leave.
More charges are expected in the following days, according to the FBI. He has also been charged in Virginia with two counts of wildlife trafficking and conspiracy to wildlife trafficking charges.