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'Tiger King' star Doc Antle arraigned on federal charges

He and several others face charges related to wildlife trafficking and some also face money-laundering accusations.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A well-known face from Netflix's "Tiger King" series has been indicted on federal charges in South Carolina along with four other people, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of South Carolina announced on Thursday.

The office announced that 62-year-old Bhagavan Mahamayavi Antle, better known as Doc Antle, of Myrtle Beach was arraigned by a federal grand jury in Florence on charges of money laundering and wildlife trafficking. Also charged were 52-year-old Andrew Jon Sawyer of Myrtle Beach, 51-year-old Meredith Bybee of Myrtle Beach, 61-year-old Charles Sammut of Salinas, California, and 42-year-old Jason Clay of Franklin, Texas.

According to the statement, Antle ran The Institute for Great Endangered and Rare Species (TIGER) also known to many as Myrtle Beach Safari - a 50-acre tropical wildlife preserve. The statement said Sawyer and Bybee are Antle's employees and business associates. Meanwhile, Sammut is the owner and operator of Vision Quest Ranch which is a for-profit company that housed exotic species and sold tours and other services. Franklin is the owner and operator of the Franklin Drive Thru Safari, another for-profit company that housed exotic animals and sold tours and other experiences.

The indictment says that Antle, working with Bybee, Sammut, and Clay, illegally trafficked wildlife such as lemurs, cheetahs, and chimpanzees in violation of federal laws such as the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. They're also accused of making false records regarding wildlife.

Previous federal complaints along with the indictment also claim that over the last several months, both Antle and Sawyer laundered more than $500,000 that investigators believed were the proceeds of an operation to smuggle immigrants without proper documentation into the United States. They're believed to accomplish this by using bulk cash receipts to purchase animals for which there were no checks used - then inflating tourist numbers at Myrtle Beach Safari to conceal the money received.

Bybee Sammut and Clay are still awaiting arraignment and could face up to five years in prison for charges related to wildlife trafficking.

Antle and Sawyer could face up to 20 years in prison for money laundering and also face an additional five years in prison for wildlife if convicted.

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