A colorful character from the hit Netflix series Tiger King may end up getting caged after he pled guilty to animal trafficking and money laundering.
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, 63, who was peddling cheetah, lion, and tiger cubs along with young chimpanzees allegedly claimed payments he earned from the sale of the creatures were donations, according to the Associated Press.
“The defendant held himself out as a conservationist, yet repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals and then tried to cover up those violations,” Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said in a statement.
The feds learned about Antle’s operation when they learned he was earning buckets of cash to purchase the endangered animals by allegedly running an illegal immigrant smuggling operation with a co-conspirator at his South Carolina non-profit sanctuary called the Myrtle Beach Safari.
“Wildlife crime is often connected with other criminal activity, including money-laundering,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. “This investigation revealed a pattern of illicit wildlife transactions orchestrated by the defendant under the guise of donations and false paperwork.”
Before taking the plea deal, a jury acquitted him of animal cruelty charges and a judge dropped four other charges against him.
Antle faces a maximum of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine for each count.
If Antle gets sentenced to prison, he could potentially meet up with Tiger King co-star Joe Exotic, 60, who was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison following his 2020 conviction in a murder-for-hire plot to knock off his cat-loving rival Carole Baskin.