Yacht owner facing cocaine and gun charges after Nantucket arrest pleads guilty

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Scott Burke, a retired surgeon from Florida, was arrested last September after police found drugs and a gun on board his yacht in Nantucket Harbor.

Yacht owner facing cocaine and gun charges after Nantucket arrest pleads guilty
The Jess Conn, owned by Scott Burke, in Nantucket Harbor. David Creed/ Nantucket Current

Last September, police arrested a retired surgeon on his yacht in Nantucket Harbor after finding suspected cocaine and a gun onboard

Scott Burke, 70, pleaded guilty this week to charges of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, possessing ketamine with intent to distribute, and possessing a gun and ammunition without a state license, according to court documents. He was placed on probation for a year. 

Burke was also facing four counts of possession of a large-capacity firearm. Those charges were dropped. 

“This was simply a case about a gentleman who had authority to own firearms and was not aware that his 2nd Amendment right was not reciprocated over a mile off the shore of Nantucket,” Burke’s attorney, Hank Brennan, said in a statement to The Boston Globe. “We are appreciative of [the] District Attorney’s thoughtful consideration, and delicate balance between advocating for the community and demonstrating empathy. We were confident that Dr. Burke would be vindicated if we pursued a jury trial, however, time is not a luxury that was available to us.” 

Burke was revealed to have terminal cancer last year. Prosecutors reportedly factored this in when deciding to accept his plea. 

“In light of the defendant’s age, lack of criminal record, and health status we agreed to the terms of his disposition,” a spokesperson for Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert J. Galibois’s office told the Globe

Authorities were called to Burke’s 80-foot yacht, the Jess Conn, on Sept. 5, 2023. Police were contacted by a man in Dallas who believed that his friend, a 33-year-old woman, “did not want to be there, was under the influence of narcotics, and possibly ha[d] overdosed,” according to court documents. 

When officers boarded the vessel, they found the woman “awake but extremely lethargic.” She said she did not feel safe and was “afraid to be on the boat,” according to police. She was brought to Nantucket Cottage Hospital for treatment. 

Officers found a gun, cocaine, and ketamine in a bedroom on the boat, according to court documents. 

Burke told police that the woman was an employee of his who had been hired three to four weeks before the incident. He denied any knowledge of illegal drugs on the yacht, according to a police affidavit. He claimed to have a gun license in Florida, but police found that it had expired.

The woman was described by Brennan during a hearing as a friend of the ship’s captain who had been hired to work as a server. When many crew members went ashore, the woman asked Burke to stay on board for a few days. Police were eventually contacted by a “disgruntled ex-boyfriend,” Brennan told the Globe

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