Doc Antle, ‘Tiger King’ Star, Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

Infamous Myrtle Beach Safari owner Doc Antle, who gained notoriety through the Netflix series “Tiger King,” has recently pleaded guilty in a federal case.

The charges revolve around Antle’s involvement in conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and conspiracy to launder money, specifically related to his role in buying and selling endangered animals, reports Fox.

Antle, a 63-year-old from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, became a household name following his appearance in the 2020 Netflix documentary miniseries, ‘Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.’ While the series focused on various tiger breeders and private zoo operators, Antle’s legal troubles have taken center stage.

Doc Antle is a prominent figure known for his appearance in the 'Tiger King' documentary series.

Photo: Ligertrainer, Wikimedia Commons / Andy Carvin, License: CC BY-SA 2.5 DEED
Doc Antle is a prominent figure known for his appearance in the ‘Tiger King’ documentary series.

The Charges

Antle’s guilty plea includes two significant charges:

1. Conspiracy to Violate the Lacey Act

The Lacey Act is a federal law that prohibits the trafficking of illegally taken wildlife, fish, or plants, including animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. According to WMBF News, court documents reveal that between September 2018 and May 2020, Antle directed the sale or purchase of several endangered animals.

These transactions involved two cheetah cubs, two lion cubs, two tigers, and a juvenile chimpanzee, all protected under the Endangered Species Act, CBS News reports. These purchases were allegedly conducted with a disregard for the law.

Antle serves as the director of the nonprofit Rare Species Fund, registered in South Carolina.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / ZooFriend, License: CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED
Antle serves as the director of the nonprofit Rare Species Fund, registered in South Carolina.

2. Conspiracy to Launder Money

Antle’s illegal activities extended to money laundering. Between February and April 2022, he engaged in financial transactions with cash believed to be obtained from transporting and harboring undocumented immigrants, CBS Austin reports.

To conceal the nature of the illegal cash, Antle used a bulk cash payment scheme and falsified paperwork to make it appear as non-commercial transfers within one state. Additionally, he directed payments for endangered species towards his nonprofit organization, Rare Species Fund, to give the appearance of legitimate donations, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

Antle is in trouble for purchasing cheetah cubs, among other endangered animals.

Photo: Pexels
Antle is in trouble for purchasing cheetah cubs, among other endangered animals.

The Fallout

For violating federal law, Antle’s actions have far-reaching consequences:

Legal Ramifications

As a result of his guilty plea, Doc Antle faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release for each count, Rolling Stone reports.

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A Conservationist’s Contradiction

The case highlights the stark contradiction between Antle’s public image as a conservationist and his repeated violations of laws protecting endangered animals. Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division stated that Antle had “repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals and then tried to cover up those violations.”

Antle’s fate serves as a stark reminder that those who profit from such illegal activities will face consequences. Until preservation of all federally protected species is guaranteed, others may face the same reality if they try to exploit endangered animals.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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