Bhagavan "Doc" Antle, who appeared in Netflix's bizarre documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness and then was featured in his own spinoff when the series became a sensation, has posted $250,000 bond and will be allowed to leave jail while awaiting an upcoming trial. The animal park owner was arrested earlier this month by the FBI in connection with $500,000 in money laundering, seemingly unconnected to other charges he has already been facing since 2020. Per the Associated Press, federal prosecutors said Antle's release would take a day to process. Once free, Antle will be confined to his 50-acre wildlife preserve in Socastee, outside Myrtle Beach.
Prosecutors argued against release, according to Entertainment Weekly, calling Antle a flight risk since he has wealth and connections. His defense argued that he has no prior convictions, and that pre-existing health conditions would increase his risk of serious illness or death if he should contract COVID-19 while in custody.
Antle is charged with laundering $500,000 by conspiring with an employee at his Myrtle Beach Safari, Andrew Jon Sawyer, to use checks from the businesses they ran, claiming they were paying for construction costs at the Safari. Antle reportedly used the money to illegally purchase animals for the attraction. If convicted, Antle and Sawyer both face up to 20 years in prison. While it appears true he has no previous convictions, Antle was brought up on multiple wildlife trafficking charges back in 2020, which are still pending.
"We applaud the Dept. of Justice and FBI for arresting Bhagavan 'Doc' Antle, a longtime scoundrel engaged in the egregious and inhumane trade of dangerous big cats," said Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, following the arrest. "Irresponsible breeding, inhumane living conditions, and public exploitation is a serious problem in the U.S., and caging these wild animals also presents a threat to human health and safety.
"It's fitting that "Doc" Antle is behind bars after years of locking up the endangered animals he uses in tawdry photo ops," PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Debbie Metzle said in a statement. "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."
Here's how Netflix described Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story, which hit last December: "A lifelong showman, Doc Antle has built his various careers on theatrics, attracting a slew of admirers along the way. But beneath the eccentric, animal-loving facade lies a predator far more dangerous than his beloved big cats and a man shadier than any of his 'Tiger King' counterparts. Over three episodes, 'Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story' unpacks the truth about Doc, as witnesses come forward to share their troubling stories of abuse and intimidation that set him at the top of the food chain."