Antle, 63, is the owner and operator of The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS), also known as the Myrtle Beach Safari.
The Safari is a 50-acre preserve that offers tours and private encounters with exotic wildlife, and he is also director of the non-profit Rare Species Fund.
He has pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits the trafficking of illegally taken wildlife, fish or plants, including animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Prosecutors say that between September 2018 and May 2020, Antle directed the sale or purchase of two cheetah cubs, to lion cubs, two tigers and one juvenile chimpanzee.
The DoJ says that Antle used bulk cash payments to hide the deals and falsified paperwork. He also demanded that payments for endangered species go through his non-profit so that they could be logged as “donations.”
Prosecutors also say that between February and April 2022, Antle and a co-conspirator laundered money that was obtained from transporting and harbouring illegal aliens.
Antle faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of supervised release for each count.
South Carolina US District Court Judge Joseph Dawson III accepted Antle’s guilty plea and will sentence him after receiving reports.
“The defendant held himself out as a conservationist, yet repeatedly violated laws protecting endangered animals and then tried to cover up those violations,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).
“This prosecution demonstrates our commitment to combatting illegal trafficking, which threatens the survival of endangered animals.”
It is not the first conviction for Antle, who in June was found guilty in Virginia of two felony counts of wildlife trafficking and two felony counts of conspiracy to traffic wildlife.
Prosecutors in that case stated that Antle illegally brought endangered cubs in Virginia that were later put on display in Myrtle Beach.