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Doctor arrested on gun and drug charges held on $200,000 bail as details emerge in Nantucket yacht case

Scott Anthony Burke appeared in Plymouth District Court.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

PLYMOUTH — A retired doctor who was arrested Tuesday on his yacht in Nantucket Harbor on drug and gun charges was ordered held on $200,000 bail as details about the circumstances on board the luxury vessel emerged in court.

Scott Anthony Burke, 69, of Key Largo, Fla., appeared in Plymouth District Court for a detention hearing Thursday, two days after authorities boarded his 80-foot yacht, the Jess Conn, after receiving a call about a woman who had possibly overdosed and wanted to leave the vessel, records show.

During the hearing, Cape and Islands Assistant District Attorney Michael Preble said a “third party” called police Tuesday morning about the young woman. When officers arrived, she was in Burke’s bedroom and “appeared to be under the influence of some substance,” authorities said.


As the woman was given medical care and taken to a hospital, officers in the bedroom saw a black semi-automatic handgun sitting “in plain view,” Preble said. Officers also found a “short-barreled rifle,” he said. Burke said he was licensed to carry guns in Florida but officers learned that his license expired last year, according to police.

Officers also found a pink bag with “a white powdery substance” believed to be ketamine and “additional packages” containing drugs, Preble said. After obtaining a search warrant, police found a total of more than 43 grams of cocaine and 14 grams of ketamine, he said.

Burke is charged with cocaine trafficking, possession to distribute ketamine, illegal gun possession, and possession of a large capacity feeding device, records show.

Preble had asked that Burke be held without bail, citing concerns about the woman as well as the volume of drugs and the two weapons. Burke has no ties to Massachusetts and could pose a flight risk, Preble said. While his primary residence is in Key Largo, his yacht is “ultimately” where he lives, Preble said.


“I recognize he has no [criminal] record but I would suggest ... based on the drugs, the firearms, as well as the young person involved, that he is a danger,” Preble said.

Authorities have not identified the woman or said how old she is.

Hank Brennan, a lawyer for Burke, said the woman is a friend of the ship’s captain and had been hired to work on the yacht as a server. Burke had more than a dozen guests on the yacht in the week leading up to Tuesday, including guests invited by crew members, Brennan said.

Members of the crew left the yacht to attend a wedding last weekend, and the woman asked if she could stay on board for a couple of days until they returned, Brennan said in an interview after the hearing.

Burke agreed she could stay, and Brennan said a “disgruntled ex-boyfriend,” upset she had stayed on the vessel, called police so they would search the yacht.

“Now he is paying the price for being kind,” Brennan said after the hearing.

Brennan said Burke was not aware his gun license had expired, something he called an “administrative oversight.” Brennan stressed that Burke does not use drugs and does not sell them.

“Someone else using drugs on his boat is not a crime,” Brennan said after the hearing. He said he expected Burke will be able to post bail “imminently.”

In court, Brennan said Burke was a successful surgeon for 35 years and described him as a “humanitarian” who has traveled to Haiti and Rwanda to provide medical services to people in need. Brennan said his client has given “an enormous portion” of his wealth away through donations to colleges and scholarship programs.


“There is a lifetime history of a humanitarian nature that shows the character of this man,” Brennan said.

Burke was first licensed to practice medicine in Colorado in 1981. His license in that state expired in 2021, according to Colorado Board of Medicine records.

About 20 years ago, he founded a Denver-based company, Injury Finance, according to its website. The company describes itself as “the industry leader in medical funding,” which was “created to serve an uninsured and under-insured population in need of medical treatment.”

The company said this week that Burke currently has “no affiliation” with it.

According to Marine Traffic, a site that monitors vessel locations across the globe, the Jess Conn arrived on Nantucket on Aug. 23 from Newport.

A Nordhavn yacht, the boat flies a Cayman Islands flag, signifying that it’s registered there, and was built in 2021, according to the site.

Travis Andersen can be reached at Nick Stoico can be reached at Follow him @NickStoico.