Former second in command Navy official arrested on bribery and conspiracy charges

 June 1, 2024

A retired Navy admiral was arrested Friday for allegedly exchanging government contracts in exchange for employment opportunities, The Hill reported. The Department of Justice implicated Retired Navy Adm. Robert Burke and two others in the scheme.

The former vice chief of naval operations for the U.S. Navy was charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in a Florida court Friday. Alleged co-conspirators Yongchul “Charlie” Kim and Meghan Messenger were charged with the same crimes.

Burke faces additional charges for “performing acts affecting a personal financial interest and concealing material facts from the United States,” a statement from the Justice Department noted. Burke, who lives in Florida, was active in the military at the time of the alleged crime, the newly unsealed indictment said.

If convicted, the 66-year-old could serve up to 30 years in prison. Kim and Messenger could each serve up to 20 years in prison if they're found guilty.

The Deal

Burke spent decades in the service and, at one time, was the second-highest-ranking officer in the Navy, Fox News reported. Kim and Messenger were co-CEOs for a company not named in the indictment but which provided training for a small sector of the Navy between 2018 and 2019.

The contract had expired in 2019, but the trio met in July 2021 to make a new deal despite the Navy warning the company not to go through Burke. Still, they reached an agreement in the "triple-digit millions" at the time, according to Kim.

By December 2021, the company was back in business training Burke's staff stationed in Spain and Italy to the tune of $355,000. He even attempted to persuade another senior commander to award a contract to the company as well.

That favor was returned in October 2022 when Burke was hired on to that company following his retirement from the Navy. He received a $500,000 annual salary plus stock options worth $100,000.

This appears to be the payoff to the bribe. However, Burke claims he had nothing to do with the company securing a contract with the Navy, and that talks with the CEOs about his future with them did not commence until after they had already contracted with the Navy.

The Case Against Him

Burke's defense attorney Timothy Parlatore believes that the government's case against Burke is weak. "I think a jury will see through this," Parlarone said.

"There was no connection between this contract and his employment. The math just doesn’t make sense that he would give them this relatively small contract for that type of a job offer."

FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Scott believes differently.  "Burke allegedly steered a lucrative contract to Kim and Messenger's company in exchange for the promise of future employment and then lied to try to conceal the scheme," Scott said.

"As a four-star admiral, Burke not only cheated U.S. taxpayers but also did a disservice to military personnel under his command. As this indictment demonstrates, the FBI and our partners remain committed to investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials regardless of their rank or title," Scott added.

It's unfortunate that Burke may have misused his position for his own gain. What's worse is that he like could have found a lucrative position without risking prison time and public disgrace.

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