Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

A former Navy vice chief of naval operations faces up to 30 years in prison after he was arrested Friday along with two business executives on criminal charges involving a U.S. government contract bribery scheme while in uniform, according to the Justice Department.

An indictment unsealed Friday alleges that retired Adm. Robert Burke, 62, took part in the scheme from 2020 to 2022, while serving as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa from 2020 until his retirement in 2022.

The alleged crimes also involve Yongchul “Charlie” Kim and Meghan Messenger, both of New York, who are the CEOs of a company referred to only as “Company A” in the Justice Department’s indictment announcement.

Burke’s civilian defense attorney, Timothy Parlatore, told Navy Times that Burke “vigorously contests these charges,” and that there was “no quid pro quo.”

“The timeline in the indictment is inaccurate,” Parlatore said. “We look forward to going to trial and expect that he will be found not guilty.”

Burke turned himself in to local authorities earlier on Friday, he added.

Attorneys for Kim and Messenger could not immediately be reached for comment.

Burke, Kim and Messenger are each charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, while Burke faces additional charges of performing acts of a personal financial interest and concealing material facts from the United States.

According to the Justice Department, the alleged crimes started when Company A provided a training pilot program to “a small component” of the Navy from August 2018 to July 2019.

The Navy terminated a contract with that company in late 2019 “and directed Company A not to contact Burke,” according to the Justice Department.

Burke served as the vice chief of naval operations, the second-highest officer in the Navy, from June 2019 to June 2020, according to his official biography.

But Kim and Messenger allegedly went on to meet with Burke in Washington, D.C., in July 2021, part an alleged effort to reestablish the company’s ties to 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,” the Justice Department said. “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.”

Kim allegedly estimated that that contract would be worth “triple digit millions,” according to the Justice Department.

Burke allegedly ordered his staff in December 2021 to award a $355,000 contract to the company to train personnel under his command in Spain and Italy, according to the Justice Department, and Company A carried out the training in January 2022.

Burke allegedly tried to convince a fellow “senior Navy Admiral” to award another contract to the company. That senior admiral is not identified in the Justice Department’s indictment announcement.

“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,” the Justice Department said.

Burke retired after handing over command of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa in the summer of 2022, according to the Navy.

A few months later, in October 2022, Burke went to work for Company A “at a yearly starting salary of $500,000 and a grant of 100,000 stock options,” according to the Justice Department.

Before leading the Navy in Europe and Africa, Burke was the vice chief of operations from June 2019 to June 2020, and also served as the chief of naval personnel.

In a statement Friday, the Navy said “has fully cooperated with this investigation from the onset.

“We take this matter very seriously and will continue to cooperate with the Department of Justice,” the Navy said.

Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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