Tiger King star Doc Antle has been arrested by the FBI in South Carolina yesterday.
Antle, real name Mahamayavi Bhagavan Antle, was a key player in the Netflix series Tiger King and welcomed the cameras into his private zoo, Myrtle Beach Safari.
According to TMZ, the 62-year-old was booked in Horry County, South Carolina, around 3.30pm local time on Friday.
The outlet claims: ‘Federal law enforcement sources close to the investigation tell us the charges have to do with money laundering,’ adding that Antle is due to appear in court next week.
Antle has been caught up in legal issues in the past, and has faced criticism over accusations of animal cruelty throughout the course of his career, however, he has not been jailed.
The zookeeper, who is portrayed as Joe Exotic’s mentor in the Netflix programme, was a part of Britney Spears’ iconic 2001 I’m a Slave 4 U VMAs performance, in which he was the animal handler.
The performance included Spears dancing in a cage with Antle and a liger (a lion tiger hybrid) and then dancing with a python on stage.
In 1989, he was fined by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) for abandoning deer and peacocks at his zoo in Buckingham, Virginia. In total, he has more than 35 USDA violations for mistreating animals.
In late December 2019, Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari was raided by South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Horry County Police Department.
One year later, he was reported as being investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Justice for the illegal sale of big cats.
In October 2020, Antle was indicted by a grand jury in Virginia, after a months-long investigation by the Virginia Attorney General’s Animal Law Unit.
His charges included felony wildlife trafficking and a misdemeanour animal cruelty and violations of the Endangered Species Act.
Prosecutors said that Antle carried or caused the lions to be carried in a ‘cruel, brutal, or inhumane manner, so as to produce torture or unnecessary suffering.’
Antle denied the claims in a statement, which read: ‘I am terribly shocked and disappointed at the charges that have been filed against me by the Commonwealth of Virginia, and how they have sought to involve my daughters in this matter.
‘I categorically deny any act or conduct that could ever be considered as “animal cruelty”.
‘I have spent my entire professional life promoting the welfare and conservation of big cats and other species.
‘I have deep regard and feelings for the animals in my care and would never hurt or abuse them in any way. I look forward to being able to answer these charges and to be able to clear my good name.’
It was also revealed that two of Antle’s daughters had been charged with misdemeanours.
Tawny Antle faces one misdemeanour count of cruelty to animals while Tilakum Watterson has been charged with two misdemeanour counts of cruelty to animals and two misdemeanour counts of violating the Endangered Species Act.
A trial date was set for July 2022.
Tiger King: The Doc Antle Story is available to stream on Netflix.