Former second in command of US Navy arrested on bribery charges

A former vice chief of naval operations was arrested Friday for allegedly steering government contracts towards a company in exchange for a lucrative job offer while commanding US naval forces in Europe and Africa and the Allied Joint Forces Command.

Robert Burke, a retired four-star Admiral, and the company’s co-CEOs Yongchul “Charlie” Kim and Meghan Messenger are facing bribery and conspiracy charges, according to the Justice Department. Burke is also charged with performing acts affecting a personal financial interest and concealing material facts from the United States.

If convicted, Burke faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, and Kim and Messenger each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

In a statement to CNN Friday, Rear Adm. Ryan Perry said that the Navy takes the charges “very seriously” and “has fully cooperated with this investigation from the onset.”

Timothy Parlatore, who is a CNN legal commentator and is also representing Burke in court, told CNN Friday that Burke contests the prosecutors’ allegations. “We intend to take these charges to trial, and we expect he will be found not guilty,” Parlatore said.

CNN was not able to identify a lawyer Kim or Messenger.

According to prosecutors, Burke covertly helped the leadership of a company get a contract with the US government to provide training to a contingent of Navy forces in Italy and Spain. Prosecutors say the group had also reached an agreement for Burke to help the company land a much more lucrative training contract worth “triple digit millions,” which would have entailed training a much more substantial portion of the Navy.

The company is only referred to as “Company A” in court documents, but the website for NextJump identifies Kim and Messenger as co-CEOs and references a contract with the US Navy that lines up with court documents. CNN has reached out to NextJump for comment.

In exchange for the contract, Kim and Messenger promised Burke a lucrative job. That promise came to fruition, prosecutors say, and Burke began working at Company A in October 2022 at a yearly starting salary of $500,000.

To conceal the scheme, prosecutors say, Burke repeatedly lied to the Navy to make it look like he was not involved in solidifying the contract between the Navy and Company A, including that he began discussing job opportunities with Company A “months after the contract was awarded.”

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