Doctor in Nantucket yacht case held on $200,000 bail


Scott Anthony Burke is facing a slew of drug and firearms charges after officials allegedly found cocaine, ketamine, guns, and ammunition aboard his yacht.

Scott Anthony Burke appeared in Plymouth District Court Thursday for a detention hearing. He is facing several firearms and drug charges after a Sept. 5 incident aboard his yacht off Nantucket. Pat Greenhouse / The Boston Globe

A retired surgeon from Florida was ordered held on $200,000 bail Thursday after Nantucket officials allegedly recovered cocaine, ketamine, guns, and ammunition from his yacht earlier this week. 

Scott Anthony Burke, 69, appeared in Plymouth District Court for a detention hearing days after Nantucket police responded to his 80-foot vessel, the Jess Conn, for a medical assistance call. 

On Tuesday morning, authorities received a report of a woman on the yacht “who did not want to be there, was under the influence of narcotics, and possibly ha[d] overdosed,” according to a statement of facts filed in Nantucket District Court.

  • Cocaine, ketamine, and guns found on yacht in Nantucket Harbor; vessel owner arrested

The woman was in Burke’s bedroom when officers arrived, “appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance,” and told police she did not feel safe, according to the court filing.

As the woman was given medical care and later taken to Nantucket Cottage Hospital, officers allegedly spotted a semi-automatic handgun on the yacht and a plastic bag containing a white powdery substance, according to the statement of facts. 

Burke claimed ownership of the firearms on the boat and pointed officers to another gun, a short barrel rifle, according to the court document. He reportedly told officers he had a license to carry, though police said his Florida license expired in 2022.

After obtaining a search warrant, officials allegedly found more than 43 grams of cocaine, more than 14 grams of ketamine, a .38 pistol, and various ammunition on the boat, court records show. 

Burke, a Key Largo resident, was arrested and faces a slew of firearms and drug charges, including charges of cocaine trafficking, possession of a Class A drug with intent to distribute, illegal gun possession, and possession of a large capacity feeding device. 

He pleaded not guilty to all charges during his arraignment Wednesday. 

What Burke’s lawyer had to say about the Nantucket yacht incident

Hank Brennan, Burke’s attorney, said Thursday that the woman at the center of the medical call is a friend of the yacht’s captain and had been hired to work onboard as a server, The Boston Globe reported

Brennan said his client had more than a dozen guests on the yacht in the week leading up to Tuesday’s incident, including those invited by crew members, according to the Globe. When crew members left the yacht to attend a wedding last weekend, the woman asked if she could stay onboard for a couple of days until they returned, Brennan told the newspaper after the hearing. 

Burke agreed, and a “disgruntled ex-boyfriend” called police because he was upset the woman stayed on the yacht, Brennan reportedly explained. 

According to the Globe, Brennan said Burke was not aware his gun license had expired, and maintained that his client does not use or sell drugs. 

“Someone else using drugs on his boat is not a crime,” Brennan told the Globe

In court, Brennan described Burke as a successful surgeon and humanitarian who traveled to Haiti and Rwanda to provide medical services and gave away “an enormous portion” of his wealth through donations to colleges and scholarship programs, the Globe reported. 

According to the Nantucket Current, Brennan also revealed that Burke is suffering from terminal cancer and likely does not have long to live. 

“To have this man potentially spend the rest of his life waiting for a case in jail, to me, would be very, very tragic,” Brennan said, according to the Current. 

He told the news outlet that he expects Burke to post bail and return to Florida to be with his family. 

Burke is due back in court Oct. 2 for a probable cause hearing.