Ready, Aim, Prison: Scottsdale Shooting Champ Matthew Burkett Sentenced for Fraud

Matthew Burkett was sentenced on Wednesday for scamming customers of his Scottsdale business, Predator Tactical.
Matthew Burkett was sentenced on Wednesday for scamming customers of his Scottsdale business, Predator Tactical.
National shooting champion Matthew Burkett was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison on Wednesday for defrauding clients of his Scottsdale gun-making company.

Burkett, who lives in Scottsdale, was also ordered by a judge in the U.S. District Court of Missouri to pay $576,100.48 in restitution to the victims.

He's famous in the shooting world, having racked up more than 150 state, national, and world titles in pistol competitions. He starred in three seasons of "Top Shot" on the History Channel, was featured in NBC Sports Network’s "3-Gun Nation," and had a popular line of instructional DVDs.

He founded Predator Tactical in 2010 with the plan of making high-end, custom tactical pistols and rifles. But as a businessman, he didn't shoot straight.

click to enlarge A 9mm "Scarab" handgun made by Predator Tactical. - PREDATOR TACTICAL VIA FLICKR
A 9mm "Scarab" handgun made by Predator Tactical.
Predator Tactical demanded that customers pay for their guns up front. Court records accused him of taking customer payments for his own use, and spending money from loans and investors for himself instead of the company.

In April 2017, marshals arrested Burkett in Scottsdale following an indictment two months earlier by a federal grand jury in Missouri. The single count of fraud stemmed from his company's appearance at the 2012 NRA convention in St. Louis.

Burkett was released a few days later, and denied responsibility when contacted by Phoenix New Times for an article about the arrest. The indictment was full of "incorrect" information, he claimed.

"It's a hellish experience," he said at the time of the federal charge and investigation.

About a month later, New Times reported how Burkett had been arrested again after testing positive for meth, which was a violation of his release terms.

Represented by a federal public defender, he pleaded guilty in August 2018.

He's expected to self-surrender following a pending order from the Missouri Marshal's Office, and has requested a federal facility in or near Arizona. His company is apparently defunct; the website is dead.

Besides owing personal customers more than $427,000, Burkett has been ordered to pay large restitution amounts to several businesses that were apparently affected by the scam. For instance, he's to pay more than $42,000 to the Wild West Shooting Centre in Alberta, Canada, and another $42,000 to Master Firearms in Bangkok, Thailand.

Victims may never see much return on their loss, however: The court waived any interest on the restitution amount, noting that Burkett was unable to pay it.