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Press Release

Retired Navy Admiral and Business Executives Arrested in Connection with Alleged Bribery Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

             WASHINGTON – Robert Burke, 62, of Coconut Creek, Florida, a retired Navy Admiral, and two business executives – Yongchul “Charlie” Kim, 50, and Meghan Messenger, 47, both of New York, – were arrested this morning on charges related to their alleged roles in a bribery scheme that involved a U.S. government contract. The charges are contained in a five-count indictment, unsealed today, and relate to an alleged scheme in which the Admiral accepted future employment at the executives’ company in exchange for awarding them a government contract.   

             The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, 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.  

              From 2020 to 2022, Robert Burke 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 were 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. 

            “As alleged in the indictment, Admiral Burke used his public office and his four-star status for his private gain,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves. “The law does not make exceptions for admirals or CEOs.  Those who pay and receive bribes must be held accountable.  The urgency is at its greatest when, as here, senior government officials and senior executives are allegedly involved in the corruption.” 

            “Today’s indictment exemplifies our unwavering commitment to eradicating fraud within the DoD,” said Deputy Director, Grant A. Fleming, Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General’s, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). “Together with our federal partners, DCIS will persist in dismantling attempts to defraud the U.S. Government.”

            “NCIS takes every allegation of corruption within the Department of the Navy seriously, regardless of rank or position,” said Special Agent in Charge Greg Gross of the NCIS Economic Crimes Field Office. “NCIS and our partners remain committed to rooting out criminality that degrades public trust in the Department of the Navy.”

            “Burke allegedly steered a lucrative contract to Kim and Messenger's company in exchange for the promise of future employment and then lied to try to conceal the scheme,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Scott. “As a four-star admiral, Burke not only cheated U.S. taxpayers but also did a disservice to military personnel under his command. As this indictment demonstrates, the FBI and our partners remain committed to investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials regardless of their rank or title.”

            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.

            This case is being investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

            It is being prosecuted by 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.

            An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated May 31, 2024

Financial Fraud
National Security
Press Release Number: 24-476