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Jason Clay, Charles Sammut and Moksha Bybee indicted with Doc Antle for wildlife trafficking

Jason Clay (left), Doc Antle (center) and Charles Sammut have been indicted for wildlife trafficking.

Jason Clay, owner of Franklin Drive Thru Safari and East Texas Zoo and Gator Park, and Charles Sammut, owner of Monterey Zoo & Vision Quest, have been indicted on wildlife trafficking charges along with Doc Antle and Moksha Bybee of Myrtle Beach Safari.

The 10-count indictment, which was released this morning, includes charges of wildlife trafficking and money laundering against five individuals:

  • Doc Antle, 62, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

  • Andrew Jon Sawyer, 52, of Myrtle Beach

  • Moksha Bybee, 51, of Myrtle Beach

  • Charles Sammut, 61, of Salinas, California

  • Jason Clay, 42, of Franklin, Texas

Moksha Bybee. Photo credit: @mokshabybee_tigers.

Sammut, Clay, Antle and Bybee are accused of trafficking lemurs, cheetahs and a chimpanzee across state lines in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Lacey Act. They're also accused of making false records regarding the animals.

Roadside Zoo News has been reporting on Clay’s illegal activity for the past two years. Clay is on 10 years of felony deferred probation for two prior incidents that he was charged for in 2018 for withdrawing $187,000 from a disabled individual’s bank account without the man’s consent and for felony aggravated assault for violently beating a man in a bar brawl. As part of the terms of his probation, Clay is not to break any laws.

The Robertson County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Clay is also under investigation related to a 2019 homicide that occurred on his property across the street from Franklin Drive Thru Safari.

In the past year, Clay’s two roadside zoos were cited with 30 violations of the Animal Welfare Act and an Official Warning. Read more about East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and Franklin Drive Thru Safari.

Sammut holds captive more than 100 animals at his roadside zoo, where he offers tours and safari experiences for guests.

Antle's roadside zoo was featured in the Netflix series Tiger King, where paying guests are offered full contact experiences with a variety of exotic animals including tigers, hybrid big cats, an elephant and chimpanzees. In 2020, Antle was charged with 17 counts related to wildlife trafficking. That case is set for trial later this year.

Antle and Sawyer were indicted earlier this month for laundering more than $500,000 in cash they believed to be the proceeds of an operation to smuggle illegal immigrants across the Mexican border into the United States.

Andrew Jon Sawyer.

Antle and Sawyer are facing up to 20 years in prison for the money laundering charges and up to five years in prison for the wildlife trafficking charges. Antle and Sawyer were previously granted bond for the federal charges.

Bybee, Sammut and Clay are each facing up to five years in prison for wildlife trafficking charges. All three are pending arraignment.


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