Inside a courtroom on the seventh floor of the federal courthouse in downtown Spokane, an attorney projects a screenshot of a sinister website where people attempt to pay purported cartel members to do their dirty work.
A grisly photo of a dead, naked man — bound and stabbed with dozens of knives — serves as the banner image for the site found on the so-called dark web. This harder-to-access part of the internet is where some seek black market goods and services.
Need a hitman?
This site promises a suite of services from burning someone's house down to murder. But they don't do "suicides."
"To suiciders, don't contact us. We don't do suicides because you don't pay until the mark is dead and you can't pay if you're dead," Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Barker reads aloud from the site's policies during the April 21 hearing.
Screenshots from the site show messages from a user by the name of Scar215 who is trying to make sure the hitman he wants to hire knows that he's not supposed to murder the target — just kidnap and drug the Spokane woman. (Typos and grammar issues in these and other messages have been left intact throughout the article.)
"First, lets ensure the goals are correct," Scar215 writes around 5 am on April 1. "I think you accidently wrote 'not go back' when in fact she MUST go back. This is the absolute goal that she must do for a good bonus."
The user goes on to dictate specific goals to earn roughly $40,000 worth of Bitcoin. The woman must agree to drop her divorce proceedings against her husband, agree to go back to him, and agree to "keep her mouth shut, and tell no one about the kidnapping."
Scar215 also suggests the hitman plant drugs and needles in the woman's home to destroy her credibility and writes that while kidnapped, the woman should be injected with heroin twice a day, taught to do so herself, and then videotaped doing so, to be used "for bribery later."
She's a mother who "has kids every other week," the user notes.
For a bonus of tens of thousands of dollars more, Scar215 outlines other goals including "return to your husband by asking to move back home AND [f—-ing] him at least three times within" the first two weeks after the kidnapping.
"The messages recovered from the dark web demonstrate a bold, brazen plan to kidnap and drug the victim with heroin," Barker tells the court. "They demonstrate the efforts this defendant will go to to get control over his victims."
As Barker goes over the details of the messages, Dr. Ron Ilg — a pediatric doctor with a glowing, 17-year record of working with newborn babies in intensive care units — sits at the defendant's table. Dressed in a yellow Spokane County Jail jumpsuit, he repeatedly shakes his head at the allegations being leveled against him — namely that he is Scar215, a fact he denies.
Ilg was in Mexico on vacation when Scar215 wanted this kidnapping to take place. The target? Just so happens to be Ilg's estranged wife who filed for divorce in June 2020.
Before that trip, Ilg had been best known for his work saving the lives of the most vulnerable newborns.
But by the time he returned to Spokane, federal law enforcement would begin to piece together a dark picture of a man who they say relishes control, takes pleasure in the idea of imprisoning women in an underground concrete tank on his property, and who took to the dark web by night to plot terrible crimes against women in his life.
Court documents detail some of how his life began to spiral over the last two years, as his marriage fell apart, he lost his job, and his girlfriend says he became more dominating.
Even as Ilg appeared to be turning some things around early this spring, Scar215 was setting plans in motion that would land Ilg in jail facing an attempted kidnapping charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
And while the alleged goal of the kidnapping was to make Ilg's wife want him back, learning details of the threat drove her to request court protection that would deny him any contact whatsoever.
"[He] ordered a 'hit' out on me and I am very scared that if he has access to weapons, he will hurt me himself," she writes in an April 12 request for a protection order. "Mr. Ilg has already lost his job and with his current mental state, I fear that he could flee or hurt both of us. ... I believe he would hurt our son to get to me. I believe we are both in imminent danger."
"[He] ordered a 'hit' out on me and I am very scared that if he has access to weapons, he will hurt me himself."
GETTING FIREDOn April 1 — the same morning that Scar215 was making sure his hitman understood the kidnapping job — Spokane County court staff were archiving copies of a lawsuit filed March 31 by Ron Ilg against his former employer, Pediatrix/Mednax, a neonatal health provider that works with local hospitals.
Since January 2013, Ilg had served as corporate medical director for the Spokane group of Pediatrix.
Ilg's lawsuit states that he was accused of harassment by a fellow employee in May 2019, and shortly after, another complaint was lodged about his scheduling practices. Ilg claims he was never given details of the complaints or told who they came from.
"Shockingly, Defendants did not give Dr. Ilg any meaningful opportunity to defend against the allegations," the lawsuit claims.
In November 2019, Ilg's bosses asked him to step down as corporate medical director. He refused. The lawsuit states that his boss instead announced they'd suspend that position.
Ilg took some leave (his pay during that time is also disputed) and tried to get Pediatrix/Mednax to remedy what he claims was a "hostile working environment" at Sacred Heart Medical Center. But over the coming months, the lawsuit states, nothing changed, and he didn't return to work there. Divorce filings say he worked at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital during that time. In an October 2020 letter, Pediatrix and Mednax claim Ilg was removed from leadership after he refused to sign a corrective action plan in July 2019.
Eventually, Ilg was terminated on Dec. 8, 2020, according to the lawsuit.
Pediatrix did not respond to voicemails or an email seeking comment for this story. Providence Sacred Heart spokeswoman Beth Hegde emailed to say, "Ronald Ilg is not associated with Providence and has not been for several years."
As Ilg looked for a new job, he also volunteered for an up-and-coming nonprofit. Earlier this year, Ilg was highlighted in a March 11 press release for Maddie's Place, a nonprofit center that, by the end of the year, plans to offer medical care to infants who are born addicted to drugs. Ilg, still a volunteer, not a paid employee, was announced as the chief medical officer and executive director.
However, Maddie's Place staff report that as soon as the attempted kidnapping allegations were published after Ilg's April arrest, the nonprofit cut all ties with him.
When contacted by the Inlander, Ilg's attorney, Carl Oreskovich, says his team takes issue with many things included in the federal probable-cause statement and complaint.
"But I think the appropriate place for us to take that issue is in the court," Oreskovich says, declining to comment further on other elements of this story.
HARASSMENT, GPS TRACKERS AND CONTROLOver the two-year course of difficulties with his employer, Ilg's marriage also appeared to be deteriorating.
In texts from March 2020, filed as part of a petition for a protection order in December 2020, Ilg tells his wife she should read an article titled "The ultimate guide to domestic discipline, improving your relationship." She responds simply "dinner is ready." He thanks her for the meal, but notes she hasn't said anything about the article.
"Im going to take your phone everyday when you get home if you continue this behavior. I will also take your car from you if you continue to ignore my requests," Ilg texts his wife when she still doesn't reply. "you ignore text messages without a response. you refuse to refer to Me as Sir on text messaging. you wont compromise on sexual activity and how to reincorporate ropes and toys."
For now, Ronald Craig Ilg's medical license is listed as active with no enforcement actions.
But a complaint has been filed with the Washington Medical Commission, and it's being investigated, says commission spokeswoman Stephanie Mason. The commission decides whether to suspend or revoke medical licenses and investigates complaints.
An arrest doesn't automatically trigger an investigation relating to a physician's license to practice medicine, Mason says, and disciplinary actions aren't added to the public database until the commission takes an action like suspending a license.
The commission uses a complaint-based system to open investigations, but people do tend to file complaints once a physician is arrested, she says.
Sometimes the commision doesn't make a decision until the person has been convicted, Mason says. But if there's a situation where someone could be an imminent danger to the public, their license could be immediately suspended, she says.
"Doctors are supposed to be held to a higher moral standard," Mason says. "In the case of kidnapping and paying someone to do something to your wife, you would question their ability to make solid decisions at the very least."
The commission's investigators will now examine the facts surrounding the complaint about Ilg, and their work could include interviewing family members and former employers, examining court documents, and more.
His wife texts back telling him to stop the threats and notes that he is "getting scary" and "This is considered domestic abuse."
In the request for an anti-harassment protection order, filed Dec. 21, 2020, Ilg's wife notes that she found GPS trackers on her car in August 2019, April 2020 and again in June 2020.
She files for divorce in June 2020 and confronts Ilg via text about finding a tracker on her car for the third time.
"Ron I found a tracker and its on," she writes, noting the device had to be charged by someone to still have power.
"Ok. you are right. It is there for the same reason I have cameras in the house," Ilg texts back. "I care and I want to know you are ok. Sorry for caring."
Still, the divorce proceedings stall as the two live together off and on through November. But at that point, his wife decides to go forward with the divorce, according to court records. As part of the proceedings, the two try to work out a standard no-contact order in a way that allows them to still exchange information about their child.
But when Ilg texts his wife hundreds of times in December, she files for the more protective anti-harassment order. Under it, Ilg would not be able to contact her at all.
In the December texts, included in Spokane County court documents, Ilg threatens to show up at her house at night to learn if she's dating someone. He offers to take her on lavish vacations and pay for her other kids' higher education and career dreams. He rebukes her for not loving him. He says he's in a bad place and needs her.
Meanwhile, he begs her to make their relationship work, with his girlfriend in the mix. In divorce proceedings, his wife tells the court Ilg has been having an affair for more than two years.
In a December text, Ilg suggests his wife and girlfriend could grocery shop at Costco together while he watches their son, in order for the women to get closer, and laments the fact that his wife doesn't want to take a trip to Mexico with all of them.
"I've told you once before that not everyone thinks the same way as you do," his wife replies. "You may think spending time together and going to Mexico or hanging out with you and [your girlfriend] will make things better. Maybe thats how it would help you or what you think will help me but it doesn't mean its right."
Neither Ilg's wife nor his girlfriend would comment for this story.
By January 2021, Ilg and his wife, through their attorneys, instead agreed that she would drop her December request for an anti-harassment protection order and replace it with a less strict civil no-contact order. Under that order, Ilg could only contact his wife if it regarded their 2-year-old son.
But on Feb. 11, as the two exchanged their son at the scheduled time in a grocery store parking lot, the wife saw folded papers on the ground with her name on them just outside his car.
On Feb. 19, she again asked the court to issue a stricter anti-harassment protection order, noting that during that custody exchange, Ilg texted her to say she must have "dropped something," prompting her to pick up the letter on the ground, which turned out to be a typed three-page plea from him begging her to get back together. That type of communication wasn't allowed.
But by March 10, the two again agreed that instead of getting an anti-harassment protection order, there was another option. This time, Ilg would put $25,000 into a trust account with his wife's attorney, which he would forfeit should he violate the terms of their civil no-contact order.
Bevan Maxey, the attorney who has represented Ilg's wife both in her divorce and protection order filings, notes that the willingness to put up that kind of money to ensure an order won't be violated is unusual.
"That's an extraordinary measure that I've never been a party to," Maxey says.
Throughout everything, Maxey says it's clear Ilg was trying to maintain a relationship with both his wife and girlfriend while remaining married to his wife, which was unworkable. It's unclear yet whether the crimes he's accused of by the federal government constitute a violation that would forfeit that $25,000 to his wife, but Maxey says they intend to have the court weigh in on that.
"Unfortunately, she's been through a lot. ... She just wanted peace and a peaceful split, and Mr. Ilg was given repeated chances to stop his harassing behavior," Maxey says.
CONNECTING SCAR215 WITH A DOCTORWhat Scar215 and others like him may not realize is that many of the dark web sites they try to buy services from are simply scams. In fact, the
New York Times reported in March that "there has not been a known murder attributed to any of" the dark web sites that claim to offer hitman services. The sites are attractive because users can more easily mask their location and identity from one another, and they can pay for crimes with digital currency.
But the thing about cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology is that by design, they include a receipt of every person that's ever held or traded that currency.
In Scar215's case, journalists working for the BBC — helped by an unnamed source — were able to alert the potential kidnapping victim and the FBI, providing screenshots of messages and information that led federal investigators to a cryptocurrency account on Coinbase.
FBI agent Ryan Butler testified in federal court on April 21 that with a subpoena to the cryptocurrency exchange company, agents learned that the account, belonging to one Ron Ilg, was used to transfer Bitcoin into "escrow" pending successful completion of the hit. The Coinbase account, Butler says, was set up with Ilg's personal information, including his Social Security number.
So when Ilg returned from Mexico with his girlfriend and her kids on April 11, he was met at the Spokane International Airport by federal agents. He told the FBI that he did try to hire a hitman, but he claimed that it was to commit suicide in a way that his girlfriend could collect his life insurance, records state. However, he later admitted he hadn't changed his beneficiaries to reflect that plan.
But the government makes a different case, pointing to darker intentions involving more potential victims.
While Ilg took steps in March and April to show his confidence in his employment case and his ability to follow a no-contact order, the federal complaint alleges that as early as February he had started looking for a hitman to break the hands of a woman identified only as B.L. or Victim 1 in documents.
The government alleges that around Feb. 23 and Feb. 24, Ilg used the pseudonym Scar215 to put nearly $2,000 in Bitcoin into escrow, dictating that "the target should be given a significant beating that is obvious. It should injure both hands significantly or break the hands." The address for that victim and a photo were provided.
FBI agent Butler testified during the April 21 hearing that if Victim 1, a former co-worker of Ilg's, had her hands broken, it could have ended her career. Victim 1 told the FBI that Ilg might have thought she had something to do with the complaints leveled against him before he was fired. The Inlander reached out to who we believe to be Victim 1 for comment, but she did not respond.
Then, in late March and early April, Scar215 sought someone to carry out the more complicated job involving Ilg's wife.
Scar215 provided an address where she could be found, and details of her work and child custody schedules.
Scar215 also made sure to write, "It is important to note that the husband does NOT know this is happening. He had a similar experience though to make sure he will take her back, which he agreed to do. She is strong for a woman. And she is stubborn and will need lots of persuasion. And she will say yes when she is thinking '[f—-] no' so after she is released a way to continue to encourage her would be a good idea."
During the April 21 hearing that would determine whether Ilg would remain in jail, federal prosecutor Barker also emphasized that the messages from Scar215 targeted the two women, and specified that murder was not the goal.
What's noteworthy, Barker pointed out, is that while FBI agents executed a search warrant at Ilg's house after interviewing him, they found biometric safes coded for only Ilg's fingerprint. Ilg helped open the safes, and Barker said that inside one of them agents found a sticky note with the username Scar215 and a password that enabled them to log in to the dark web sites in question.
Ilg's attorney Oreskovich attempted to draw the blame away from his client, asking agent Butler whether it's possible Ilg's phone could have been hacked or if someone else could've logged in as Scar215.
But in his response, Barker quickly noted that only one person the government knows of had the login info for that account specifically stored in a safe coded to his fingerprint: Ilg.
ESTABLISHING POTENTIAL DANGERThroughout the April 21 hearing — as his attorney argues he should be allowed to work in the community instead of sitting behind bars while awaiting trial — Ilg remains seated at the defendant's table, at times appearing as though he wants to say something.
He shakes his head at the most lurid accusations leveled by federal attorney Barker, and at times scrawls a note for his attorney Oreskovich on a piece of scratch paper.
Oreskovich tells the court that Ilg's ex-wife who lives in Central Washington (not the woman currently seeking a divorce) and his brother are both willing to help house him and ensure he shows up to court. He can work on an orchard on that ex's property. The lawyer even offers to hand over Ilg's passport and put him on a GPS-enabled ankle monitor if he's allowed to be released from jail while the case moves forward.
On the other hand, Barker points out several reasons Ilg should remain in custody.
Included in that list is the fact that Ilg is a person with means. According to income filings in his divorce proceedings, Ilg was making more than $59,000 a month before he was fired.
Barker also notes Ilg attempted suicide the day after the search warrant was served on his property, and he was treated at the hospital for a few days before being booked into Spokane County Jail on April 16.
Barker argues that in an apparent suicide note, Ilg showed he felt guilty about the plot, as he wrote, "I pray that God forgives me. ... I couldn't see the path. I [f—-ed] it up. Irreparable [f—-] up."
Both women who were potential targets also reported that they wouldn't feel safe if Ilg were released, particularly since the wife's protection orders obtained before this point did not prevent things from escalating, Barker says. Even Ilg's girlfriend, referred to as "Witness 1" in the federal complaint, said she wanted Ilg kept in jail.
While in Mexico, Ilg's girlfriend had noticed him using a second cellphone and threw it in the pool, according to the FBI. On April 8, she texted Ilg's wife to let her know "some strange stuff has happened while we have been here I need to talk to you ASAP when we get back."
She tells the FBI that in March, Ilg had forced her to sign a "master-slave" contract with blood, against her will, agent Butler testifies.
Attorney Barker displays a copy of the contract, printed in a calligraphic typeface. It states in part that it is, "A consensual real slavery contract between a slave and its master." Later, it says "slave unconditionally accepts what master would like to do" whether that's a punishment or not. The final page appears to be signed by Ilg and the girlfriend with a partial bloody fingerprint next to each signature.
Butler testifies that the girlfriend recorded audio of an apparent attack by Ilg while in Mexico, in which she can be heard saying "please stop" over and over, as if she's in pain. Butler says she also told agents Ilg threatened her with several hours in "the hole," a concrete box that's buried under the yard on his rural Orchard Prairie property, where she says he's made her spend time before.
Federal attorney Barker displays pictures that were taken inside and outside the tank when the search warrant was executed. Above ground, two circular concrete lids sit several feet apart in the grass at ground level, and two curved metal pipes apparently provide airflow. A photo from inside the dark concrete box shows the tank is deep enough that a ladder is needed to get in or out.
Ilg's attorney Oreskovich counters by asking if the activities, including being put in "the hole," were consensual. He asks Butler whether he's ever searched for a similar master-slave contract online (he hasn't) or if he's heard of BDSM — "bondage, domination, sadism, masochism," Oreskovich explains.
Oreskovich notes that while the federal government quotes February texts from the girlfriend to Ilg that say "leave me alone," she still went to Mexico with him in early April.
But Barker asks agent Butler if he's ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome, or the cycle of domestic violence, in which victims regularly return to their abusers, struggling to leave abusive situations, often out of fear of violence.
In the end, U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Rodgers says he's not going to hang anything on anybody's sexual preferences, and he's not sure if the domestic violence cycle illuminates this particular case. He also recognizes that Ilg has no criminal history and has a strong family support system.
Yet the steps to date, including protection orders obtained by Ilg's wife, were not effective in preventing further behavior, Rodgers says.
"I also find this case to be striking, and a departure from the norm, if there is one to be had in this business," Rodgers says. Ilg is "bright, has assets, and has shown a willingness to be vicious and devious."
So at the end of the multi-hour hearing, the judge finds that no conditions can keep everyone safe except for keeping Ilg detained for now.
In particular, the judge notes that a mental health evaluation should be conducted, and once that evidence is presented, there could be further discussion of possible release terms.
Court is adjourned, and as the handful of people in the courtroom stand up to leave, two U.S. marshals put Ilg back in handcuffs. The man who's shown a penchant for being in control and subduing others finds himself on the other side of the power balance, subdued as officers escort him out a side door in the chambers to be taken back to a concrete cell. ♦
LOCAL ATTEMPTS TO HIRE A HITMANIn the past, others in the Spokane area have tried to hire hitmen, but in nearly every case, the "hitman" turned out to be a cop.
South Hill Rapist Kevin Coe's mother, Ruth Coe, was found guilty in 1982 of trying to hire a hitman to kill the judge and prosecutor who put her son away. The "hitman" she spoke with was an undercover police officer.
In August 2019, adult film actress Katrina Danforth pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Idaho for trying to hire a hitman to kill the father of one of her kids. The hitman in that case, someone she'd been given a phone number for, turned out to be an undercover police officer.
There was, however, an actual hitman hired to kill Spokane businessman Doug Carlile in 2014. In that case, James Henrikson, who bought into potential oil-bearing property in North Dakota with Carlile, hired Timothy Suckow, someone his right-hand man knew, for the shooting. Suckow apparently never got paid, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder. Henrikson was sentenced to life in prison.