FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – A federal grand jury in Florence on Thursday dismissed a 10-point indictment alleging wildlife trafficking and money laundering charges against five individuals, including Bhagavan “Doc” antle.
- Bhagavan Mahamayavi Antle, aka Kevin Antle, known as Doc Antle, 62, of Myrtle Beach;
- Andrew Jon Sawyer a/k/a Omar Sawyer, 52, of Myrtle Beach;
- Meredith Bybee, aka Moksha Bybee, 51, of Myrtle Beach;
- Charles Sammut, 61, of Salinas, California; and
- Jason Clay, 42, from Franklin, Texas
According to the indictment and other court records, Sammut owns and operates Vision Quest Ranch, a for-profit company that housed exotic captive species and sold tours and safari experiences to guests.
Clay is the owner and operator of the Franklin Drive Thru Safari, a for-profit venture that housed exotic captive species and sold tours and safari experiences to guests.
The indictment alleges that Antle, at various times, along with Bybee, Sammut, and Clay, traded illegal wildlife in violation of federal law, including the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act, and created false records about those animals. in the wild.
The animals involved were lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said the charges make it clear that a conviction would allow the US Department of Justice and the US Fish & Wildlife Service to find new homes for the animals involved.
“Curses to the US Department of Justice and the US Fish & Wildlife Service for doing what the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has refused to do for years: crack down on the equipment of ‘Doc’ Antle’s exploitation of endangered animals,” said Brittany Peet, the PETA Foundation’s deputy general counsel for captive law enforcement. “PETA will continue to push the USDA to do its job, revoke Antle’s license and stop taking advantage of animal misery.”
The indictment and a previously filed federal complaint in the case also allege that Antle and Sawyer laundered more than $500,000 in cash in recent months, which they believed to be the proceeds of an operation to bring illegal immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States. smuggling states. States.
According to the reports, Antle had used large cash register receipts to buy animals for which he could not use checks and that Antle planned to hide the money he had received by blowing up tourist numbers during the Myrtle Beach Safari.
Antle and Sawyer each face up to 20 years in federal prison on money laundering charges, and up to five years in federal prison on wildlife trafficking charges. Bybee, Sammut and Clay each face up to five years in prison on the wildlife trade charges.
Antle and Sawyer previously received bail from a federal magistrate as a result of the charges in the federal indictment, and Bybee, Sammut and Clay are awaiting arraignment.
Antle was released Tuesday on a $250,000 bond for the alleged money laundering.
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The plaintiffs in the case are assistant US attorneys Derek A. Shoemake and Amy Bower, of the District of South Carolina, and Patrick M. Duggan, senior DOJ trial attorney, of the Environmental Crime Division of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of DOJ.
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