MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Tiger King’s Bhagavan “Doc” Antle pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to three counts of wildlife trafficking charges.
The plea was made 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 said they look forward to fighting 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.”
Antle, who owns Myrtle Beach Safari and appeared on Netflix’s Tiger King, was indicted last month by a federal grand jury in Florence for wildlife trafficking and money laundering charges.
Antle is 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.
Antle, Bybee, Sammut and Clay are accused of illegally trafficking wildlife — including lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee — and making false records.
Antle has been charged with laundering more than $500,000 as part of a scheme to smuggle immigrants across the border. He also allegedly used bulk cash receipts to buy the animals because he was unable to use checks, and used the cash by inflating tourist numbers at his Myrtle Beach business, according to the announcement.
Antle is also facing animal trafficking charges in Virginia.