Fair Go: Scammer rips off camera and telescope buyers for more than $100k, spends it on meth addiction

Frustrated victims of a convicted Timaru telescope scammer say his two-year jail sentence won’t help get their money back.

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Convicted offender Robert McTague’s spiral into drugs, debt and deceit saw him take 21 other people with him. Source: Fair Go

Robert McTague swindled more than $100,000 out of his 21 victims – including individuals, businesses and a school - selling telescopic and camera equipment online throughout 2017 and 2018.

But he never delivered the items, and then used the money to fund a methamphetamine addiction.

The 62-year-old appeared before the Timaru District Court earlier this month where he pleaded guilty to possessing meth, causing loss by deception, and theft by a person in a special relationship.

McTague was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment but no reparation was ordered, as he does not have the means to pay the money back.

James Hirata – a professional photographer and one of McTague’s victims – lost $4,300 and told Fair Go he’s disappointed by the outcome.

“Even though he’s going to be in prison for two years it’s going to be at my cost with my tax money,” Hirata said.

“I don’t think it’s setting a good precedent in New Zealand, it gives me the indication it’s so easy to be a scammer in this country.”

McTague hasn’t always been a ratbag. He ran a reputable business for years, which is why Gavin Logan – another victim – trusted him.

Logan told Fair Go putting McTague in prison won’t achieve anything.

“He’s got a meth addiction, I’m not sure putting him in jail for two years is actually going to solve the problem. That’s more a medical problem,” Logan said.

“It might be a nice feeling of revenge for some people, I’m not sure there is going to be much benefit for anyone.”

Before you spend an astronomical amount of money on an expensive item like a telescope – here are Fair Go’s tips for making sure the website is legitimate. Look out for:
- A physical address and proper contact information
- Terms of trade, such as return or refund policies
- Whether they’re listed on the Companies Register or NZ Domain Name Commission
- Scour the internet for reviews about the company, whether they be good or bad. If there are none, that could be a red flag.