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Feds charge retired 4-star Navy admiral in alleged bribery scheme

5/31: CBS Morning News
5/31: CBS Morning News 20:34
File: Adm. Robert Burke (ret.), 2021 DVIDS, Allied Joint Force Command Naples

Washington — Federal prosecutors accused a retired four-star Navy admiral — who most recently served as commander of U.S. Navy forces in Europe and Africa — of entering into an alleged bribery scheme with a government contractor to secure employment after his retirement. 

A grand jury in Washington, D.C., indicted Admiral Robert Burke (ret.) on four counts, including conspiracy and bribery, according to court documents unsealed Friday. 

Prosecutors said Burke allegedly secured a government contract for his codefendants Yongchul "Charlie" Kim and Meghan Messenger — described in the indictment as executives of an unnamed company that distributes "perks at work" and training programs — in exchange for a future job. 

"Admiral Burke vehemently denies these charges and served his country honorably. We intend to take this case to trial and win an acquittal," Burke's attorney, Timothy Parlatore, told CBS News. 

Investigators alleged Burke, Kim and Messenger began communicating about a new contract for the "perks at work" company in 2021, years after the Navy officially cut ties with the corporation. According to court documents, they entered into discussions after Burke and his office had rebuffed the company's initial overtures, citing U.S. Navy policy. 

In April 2021, prosecutors said the trio spoke via WhatsApp. "Burke wants to work for us, but we're asking for a deal first," Kim allegedly said after the call, adding that Messenger "felt slimy," the indictment revealed. 

Weeks later, according to charging documents, Burke asked an unnamed individual to find funding to secure the company a contract from U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. And in July, he allegedly met with Kim, Messenger, and another unnamed individual for lunch in Washington, D.C, during which time they discussed the admiral ensuring the company received its federal contract. 

"In exchange [they] offered Burke a job at Company A – at a salary of at least $500,000 per year and a grant of 100,000 stock commence after Burke retired from the Navy," prosecutors wrote.

According to federal prosecutors, in August of 2021, the admiral gave notice that he intended to retire in May 2022. 

By December 2021, investigators accused Burke of allegedly directing a contract be drawn up for the business. Weeks later, Burke's unit submitted a purchase request worth over $350,000 for the company to carry out a training program in Italy and Spain. Prosecutors said employees working for Kim and Messenger's company officially offered the training to Navy personnel based in those countries in January 2022. 

Burke's employment with the company commenced in October 2022, court documents alleged. 

Kim and Messenger are listed as "Co-CEOs" at Next Jump, a New York-based company that offers "perks at work" and training programs to employers. The company did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment by CBS News and attorneys for the pair were not immediately identified. 

Prosecutors also charged Burke with allegedly concealing his conduct from Navy officials while promoting the company's work to others. He is accused of hiding the job offer he received from the company while still serving in the Navy and instead telling the Department of Defense he intended to "commence discussion" with Kim and Messenger after his retirement. 

Parlatore, Burke's attorney, called into question the timeline of events as described in the indictment and said the evidence will ultimately rebut prosecutors' claims.  

In a statement, Grant Fleming, deputy director at the Defense Department office of the inspector general said, "Today's indictment exemplifies our unwavering commitment to eradicating fraud within the DoD." 

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