The Navy’s former second-highest-ranking officer and the commander of naval forces for Europe and Africa was arrested Friday on federal bribery charges for allegedly offering a sole-source contract to a company in exchange for $500,000 a year in work and stock through 2021. options, the Department of Justice announced.

Retired four-star Adm. from Coconut Creek, Fla. Robert B. Burke, 62, faces the prospect of becoming the second US admiral convicted of a federal crime while on active duty after his arrest. A five-count indictment was returned Thursday In the United States District Court in Washington.

Prosecutors announced that Burke was arrested along with Yongchul “Charlie” Kim, 50, and Megan Messenger, 47, the founders of Next Jump, a New York-based technology services company.

All three are charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery and face up to 20 years in prison. Burke faces additional counts of acts affecting a personal financial interest and concealment of material facts, punishable by up to 30 years.

In an interview, Burke’s attorney, Tim Parladore, said: “He denies these allegations. We intend to go to trial and we expect him to be found not guilty at trial,” adding that “there is no connection between this contract and this job.”

Although the indictment does not name the business, its description matches Next Jump, a New York City company whose website identifies Kim and Messenger as its founders about 30 years ago and its current co-CEOs. The company lists the US Navy as a customer Burke announced on social media that it had joined Next Jump in October 2022Alignment with the timing of the charges in the indictment.

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

In a statement, federal law enforcement and military officials said the allegations highlight their commitment to “eradicating fraud” in the defense industry.

“As alleged in the indictment, Admiral Burke used his public office and four-star status for his personal gain,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves said. “The law does not make an exception for admirals or chief administrative officers. … When, as here, senior government officials and senior executives are allegedly involved in corruption, the urgency is very high.

Before retiring in 2022, Burke oversaw most of the naval operations in Europe, Russia and Africa. In Portage, Mich., Burke will serve as the 40th vice chief of naval operations from June 2019 to June 2020 and the service’s no. Also served as 2nd officer. He succeeded the retired Adm. William MoranSet to take over as the Navy’s top officer in August 2019, he cited an affair he had with a subordinate accused of inappropriate behavior towards female officers before he unexpectedly retired.

Burke’s Navy biography states that he was a trained electrical engineer and served in several capacities around the world on a submarine. When the events described in the indictment began, he was the Chief of Naval Operations with responsibility for manpower, personnel, training and education.

According to the government, Kim and Messenger were co-CEOs of a business named “Company A” in the indictment, which provided a crew training pilot program to a small fleet of sailors from August 2018 to July 2019. Chief of Naval Staff, but later that year, the Navy terminated its contract with the company, and assistant to Burke in November According to the 16-page indictment, the vice chief of naval operations and ordered him to have no further contact because of “upcoming contractual actions.”

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But Kim and Messenger reportedly met with Burke in Washington in July 2021 to revive the company’s naval business, and Burke agreed to use his four-star admiral rank to enter into a sole source contract with Company A in exchange for future work. Federal investigators say Burke allegedly agreed to influence other officials to award Company A another contract to train a large portion of the Navy, a deal Kim valued in the “three-digit millions.”

According to government investigators, Burke ordered his employees to award the company a $355,000 contract in December 2021 to train personnel under his command in Italy and Spain. He too He encouraged the company in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade another senior admiral to award another contract. Burke allegedly made false statements to the Navy to make it appear that he had no role in awarding the contract and to indicate that his employment talks began months after the contract was awarded, federal officials said.

Burke began working for Company A in October 2022, with an annual starting salary of $500,000 and a grant of 100,000 stock options, the government alleges. That same month, NextJump announced on Twitter that Burke had become a senior partner at the company. He will leave the company in early 2023, Parladore said.

Burke’s lawyer rejected the government’s timeline, saying it would “front-load the job offer” to the July 2021 meeting to fit Quid Pro Co’s timeline. “The truth is, no job was accepted at that point. It was much later,” Parladore said. He added, “Does it really make sense to offer a $500,000 job to get a $350,000 contract?”

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Only one US Navy admiral has been found guilty of a federal crime while on active duty; Rear Adm. Robert Guillebew was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2017 for lying to federal agents in the worst corruption scandal in Navy history involving disgraced defense contractor Leonard “Fat Leonard” Francis.

The Justice Department’s handling of the Francis trial has drawn a black eye, however, with defense attorneys accusing prosecutors of relying on false evidence and withholding information favorable to the defense. Two weeks ago U.S. prosecutors moved to drop criminal charges against the five defendants and said two dozen more could be affected by a continuing review of 34 cases, including 29 felony cases.

Parladore said there was no real connection between Burke’s case and the Leonard investigation, but he raised eyebrows at the back-to-back moves involving high-profile Navy scandals, saying, “It’s a weird time to indict a high-ranking admiral. All ties to Fat Leonard have been completely destroyed because of the DOJ’s misconduct.” Then.”

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