FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — No decision was made Thursday at a detention hearing in Florence County for Tiger King’s “Doc” Antle on federal money laundering charges.
The hearing in Florence County was supposed to take place June 9 but was rescheduled for Thursday at the request of Antle’s defense counsel.
Antle’s attorney is hopeful a decision on bond will come in the next day or two.
The prosecution said Antle is a flight risk due to his many overseas contacts and recorded conversations where he mentions knowing people who can get him a fake social security card. They also fear destruction of evidence.
The defense argued he cooperated fully with law enforcement and has lived in the area for 28 years and has no intention of leaving.
“The FBI was at his reserve in Myrtle Beach and he just opened up his gate, let them in and said alright, what do you need me to do?” said Ryan Beasley, Antle’s defense attorney. “And he has been cooperating ever since. It is absurd that they think he is a flight risk.”
The prosecution said Antle also faces animal trafficking charges out of Virginia and this crime is a violation of that state’s bond. Prosecutors said if he’s let out, he’ll be extradited.
Tim Quigley with the FBI also testified that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating Antle and expects charges to come in the next month. The investigation is regarding alleged trafficking of animals from South Carolina to Southern California.
Antle — whose real first name is Bhagavan — was arrested June 3 by the FBI on money laundering charges.
A third person, identified in court as Bill Dallis, was also arrested by the FBI in Horry County, according to online booking records.
A criminal complaint, unsealed June 6, reveals Antle and Andrew Jon Sawyer, 52, of Myrtle Beach, laundered $505,000 in cash “they believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle illegal immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States,” according to a news release.
Sawyer is an employee at “Doc” Antle’s Myrtle Beach Safari, according to documents.
Antle and Sawyer “would launder the cash by providing checks from a business controlled by Antle and a business controlled by Sawyer,” according to the release.
The checks falsely stated they were remitted for construction work at the safari. Antle and Sawyer received a 15% fee of the laundered amount, according to the release.
Antle allegedly discussed his plan to conceal the money by inflating tourist numbers at Myrtle Beach Safari, according to a news release.
A confidential informant went to the safari in 2019 to meet with Antle, according to the documents. The informant told an employee that they could assist them with a $200,000 transaction, but that there would be a 6% charge and up to a six-day wait. An employee said they’d alert Antle. Another person later said that Antle wanted a one-time delivery and asked if that fee could be reduced to 5%.
“We do not have enough time to wait,” a text message from Antle reads, according to the documents. “Thx for the offer of help. I had to do it today.”
In March 2021, the informant recorded a meeting with a money launder, who said that Antle had found another way to do the $200,000 transaction, according to the documents. The launderer was also doing a money-laundering scheme with others. Another recording later that year mentions $2 million to “buy the moneys,” with the money laundering, stating that the price was too much and that it would “throw up every red flag in my book.”
That August, the money launderer told the informant that Antle makes “millions and millions and millions,” the documents read. In a separate conversation with Antle, he reportedly told the informant that they can’t communicate through text and to call, because it’s difficult to tap a phone.
“And for them to get a warrant to listen to your phone is almost impossible,” a transcription of the meeting reads in the documents. “It’s just not done in America very much. They just don’t listen to phones.”
In February, FBI Special Agents initiated a “reverse money laundering” operation, in which agents created a business name and bank account in the name of said business. The business was by name only and did not have employees or offer goods or services, according to the criminal complaint.
Antle expressed nervousness in a meeting later that year about if the money is counterfeit, stating that “something explosive would happen” and that “I believe everybody got killed that did the counterfeit deals,” according to the records.
FBI agents used funds to provide cash to Antle to launder money, according to the complaint.
Agents held three separate cash transactions.
This March, the confidential informant recorded an interview where Antle asked about a female who was being illegally smuggled into the country to work at Myrtle Beach Safari, according to the documents. They discussed the smuggling operation in more detail, including flights the person would take and how the worker would have to walk through a tunnel.
The money for the schemes would be hidden by stating it was being used for construction, including on an “ape house” or on a bathroom, according to the documents.
Antle and Sawyer each face up to 20 years in federal prison if found guilty.
This is a developing story. Refresh for updates.