Retired Navy Admiral Arrested for Bribery

A retired Navy Admiral and two business executives were arrested this week on criminal charges related to their roles in a bribery scheme that involved a U.S. government contract.

As alleged in an indictment unsealed, from 2020 to 2022, Robert Burke, 62, of Coconut Creek, FL, was a four-star Admiral who oversaw Naval operations in Europe, Russia, and most of Africa, and commanded thousands of civilian and military personnel. Yongchul “Charlie” Kim and Meghan Messenger, both of New York, are the co-CEOs of a company (Company A) that provided a workforce training pilot program to a small component of the Navy from August 2018 through July 2019. The Navy terminated a contract with Company A in late 2019 and directed Company A not to contact Burke.

Despite the Navy’s instructions, Kim and Messenger then allegedly met with Burke in Washington, D.C., in July 2021 in an effort to reestablish Company A’s business relationship with the Navy. At the meeting, the charged defendants allegedly agreed that Burke would use his position as a Navy Admiral to steer a sole-source contract to Company A in exchange for future employment at the company. They allegedly further agreed that Burke would use his official position to influence other Navy officers to award another contract to Company A to train a large portion of the Navy with a value Kim allegedly estimated to be “triple digit millions.”

In furtherance of the conspiracy, in December 2021, Burke allegedly ordered his staff to award a $355,000 contract to Company A to train personnel under Burke’s command in Italy and Spain. Company A performed the training in January 2022. Thereafter, Burke allegedly promoted Company A in a failed effort to convince a senior Navy Admiral to award another contract to Company A. To conceal the scheme, Burke allegedly made several false and misleading statements to the Navy, including by creating the false appearance that Burke played no role in issuing the contract and falsely implying that Company A’s employment discussions with Burke only began months after the contract was awarded.

In October 2022, Burke began working at Company A at a yearly starting salary of $500,000 and a grant of 100,000 stock options.

Burke, Kim, and Messenger are each charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery. 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.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia; Deputy Director of Investigative Operations Grant A. Fleming of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); Special Agent in Charge Stanley A. Newell of the DCIS Transnational Operations Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Greg Gross of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) Economic Crimes Field Office; and Assistant Director Michael D. Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

DCIS, NCIS, and the FBI are investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Trevor Wilmot and Kathryn E. Fifield of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Rothstein for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.