Retired Navy Four-Star Admiral Robert P. Burke Arrested in Bribery Scheme

The Navy’s former second-highest ranking officer and commander of Naval Forces Europe and Africa was arrested Friday on federal corruption charges for allegedly awarding a sole-source contract to a company in 2021 in exchange for employment and stock of $500,000 per year. options, the Justice Department announced.

Retired four-star administrator. Robert P. Burke, 62, of Coconut Creek, Fla., faces becoming the second U.S. admiral to be convicted of committing a federal crime while on active duty, after being arrested on suspicion of ‘a five-count indictment handed down Thursday. in U.S. District Court in Washington.

Burke was arrested along with Yongchul “Charlie” Kim, 50, and Meghan Messenger, 47, founders of the New York-based technology services company Next Jump, prosecutors said.

All three face charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Burke faces additional charges of performing acts affecting personal financial interest and concealing material facts, punishable by up to 30 years.

In an interview, Burke’s attorney, Tim Parlatore, said, “He denies these accusations. We intend to go to court, and we hope that at trial he will be found not guilty,” adding that there was “no connection between this contract and this work.”

Although the indictment does not name the company, its description matches that of Next Jump, a New York company whose website identifies Kim and Messenger as among its founders about 30 years ago and as its current co-CEOs. The company lists the U.S. Navy as a customer and announced on social media that Burke joined Next Jump in October 2022, which matches the timeline of the allegations in the indictment.

Kim and Messenger could not immediately be reached for comment, and Manhattan court records did not immediately identify their attorneys. Next Jump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a statement, federal law enforcement and military officials said the charges illustrate a commitment to “rooting out fraud” within the Department of Defense.

“As alleged in the indictment, Admiral Burke used his public office and four-star status for personal gain,” said United States Attorney Matthew M. Graves. “The law makes no exceptions for admirals or CEOs. …The emergency is at its height when, as here, senior officials and senior executives are suspected of being involved in corruption.”

Before retiring in 2022, Burke oversaw naval operations in Europe, Russia and most of Africa. A native of Portage, Michigan, Burke served from June 2019 to June 2020 as the 40th vice chief of naval operations, the service’s No. 1 officer. 2nd rank officer. He succeeds the retired admiral. William Moran, who was set to take over as the Navy’s top officer in August 2019 before unexpectedly retiring, citing his interactions with a subordinate accused of acting inappropriately toward female officers.

Burke’s Navy biography states that he is a qualified electrical engineer and submariner who has served in numerous assignments around the world. He was Chief of Naval Personnel, responsible for manpower, personnel, training and education, when the events described in the indictment began.

According to the government, Kim and Messenger were co-CEOs of a company referred to in the indictment only as “Company A,” which provided a pilot workforce training program to a small component of the Navy from August 2018 to July 2019. Burke supported the program as Chief of Naval Personnel, but later that year the Navy terminated a contract with the company, and in November he helped Burke ordered her to stop contacting him due to her new role as vice chief of naval operations and “upcoming contractual actions,” according to the 16-page indictment.

But Kim and Messenger reportedly met with Burke in Washington in July 2021 to revive the company’s naval business, and agreed that Burke would use his position as a four-star admiral to lead a sole-source contract with Company A in exchange for future employment. Federal investigators said Burke also allegedly agreed to influence other officers to award another contract to Company A to train a large portion of the Navy, a contract Kim valued at “millions to three numbers “.

Burke allegedly ordered his staff to award a $355,000 contract to the company in December 2021 to train personnel under his command in Italy and Spain, according to government investigators. He also has The company made the promotion as part of an unsuccessful effort to persuade another senior admiral to award it another contract. Burke also allegedly made false statements to the Navy to make it appear that he had no role in the award of the contract and to imply that his employment negotiations began months after the contract was awarded. , federal authorities said.

Burke began working at Company A in October 2022 with an annual starting salary of $500,000 and a grant of 100,000 stock options, the government claimed. That same month, Next Jump announced on Twitter that Burke had become a senior partner at the firm. He left the company in early 2023, Parlatore said.

Burke’s lawyer rejected the government’s timetable, saying it is “moving the job offer forward” to the July 2021 meeting to meet the schedule for a quid pro quo. “The reality is that no jobs have been accepted at this stage. That happened much later,” Parlatore said. He added: “Does it really make sense to offer a $500,000 job to get a $350,000 contract?

Only one U.S. Navy admiral has been convicted of committing a federal crime while on active duty; Rear Adm. Robert Gilbeau was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2017 for lying to federal agents about his role in the worst corruption scandal in Navy history, involving disgraced defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis .

However, the Justice Department’s handling of the Francis investigation became a problem after defense attorneys alleged that prosecutors relied on faulty evidence and information held favorable to the defense. Two weeks ago, U.S. prosecutors decided to drop criminal charges against five convicted defendants and said up to two dozen additional cases could be affected by the ongoing review of 34 prosecutions, including 29 pleas of guilt.

Parlatore said there was no factual connection between Burke’s case and the Leonard investigation, but he raised an eyebrow at the back-to-back moves involving high-profile Navy scandals, saying, “The timing is strange, to indict a high-ranking admiral. after all connections related to Fat Leonard completely imploded due to DOJ misconduct.

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