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Admiral faces bribery charges for allegedly steering contract in exchange for $500,000 job

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Federal prosecutors indicted a retired four-star Navy Admiral along with two businessmen on bribery charges in a scheme that one defendant described as involving a government contract worth “triple digit millions.”

Robert Burke, 62, of Coconut Creek, Florida, was a four-star Admiral overseeing Naval operations in Europe, Russia, and most of Africa. He also commanded thousands of civilian and military personnel. Prosecutors said he was at the center of a bribery scheme involving Next Jump co-CEOs Yongchul “Charlie” Kim and Meghan Messenger.

Prosecutors said after the company lost a contract, Kim and Messenger offered Burke a job if he steered government contracts to the New York-based workplace tech company. In 2022, Burke joined Next Jump as a senior partner with an annual salary of $500,000 and a grant of 100,000 stock options, according to the indictment.

Burke’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore, told CNBC he disputed the charges.

Prosecutors also charged Kim and Messenger, both of New York, with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

Next Jump provided a workforce training pilot program to a small component of the Navy from August 2018 through July 2019. The Navy terminated the contract in late 2019 and told Next Jump not to contact Burke.

Kim and Messenger then allegedly met with Burke in Washington, D.C., in July 2021 to re-establish a business relationship with the Navy, according to prosecutors.

At the meeting, the three allegedly agreed that Burke would use his position as a Navy Admiral to steer a sole-source contract to Next Jump in exchange for a job at the company. They allegedly further agreed that Burke would use position to influence other Navy officers to award another contract to Next Jump to train a large portion of the Navy. Kim allegedly estimated that contract to be worth “triple digit millions.”

In December 2021, prosecutors said Burke ordered his staff to award a $355,000 contract to Next Jump to train personnel under Burke’s command in Italy and Spain. Next Jump performed the training in January 2022. After that, prosecutors said Burke promoted Next Jump in an unsuccessful bid to convince a senior Navy Admiral to award another contract to the company.

Prosecutors said that to conceal the scheme Burke made false and misleading statements to the Navy, including by creating the appearance that Burke played no role in issuing the contract and saying Next Jump’s employment discussions began months after the contract was awarded.

In addition to bribery and conspiracy, prosecutors also charged Burke with performing acts affecting a personal financial interest and concealing material facts from the government.

If convicted, Burke faces up to 30 years in prison. Kim and Messenger each face up to 20 years in prison.

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