Spokane – On January 24, 2023, Senior United States District Judge William Fremming Nielsen sentenced Ronald Craig Ilg, 56, of Spokane, Washington, to 96 months in federal prison for hiring hitmen on the dark web to kidnap and assault multiple victims. It was the highest sentence available under the terms of Ilg’s plea agreement. In addition to ordering Ilg to spend eight years in federal prison, Judge Nielsen ordered him to pay more than $25,000 in restitution and a $100,000 fine. Ilg will also spend three years on federal supervision following his release from prison. Judge Nielsen described Ilg’s conduct as “really egregious, and even evil,” and highlighted that “not only were there numerous communications, you spent a lot of money to hire these people to ensure what you asked them to do would be done.” Finally, Judge Nielsen emphasized that Ilg’s crimes were all the more egregious given his career as a doctor: “A doctor’s goal in life is to protect people, keeping people alive – not taking overt steps to do the opposite.”
According to court documents and information from the sentencing hearing, Ilg, a former neonatologist in Spokane, transmitted dozens of messages in early 2021 through the dark web as part of a plot to injure a former professional colleague and to have his estranged wife kidnapped. Using the moniker “Scar215” and password “Mufassa$$” to conceal his identity, Ilg sent more than $60,000 in Bitcoin in furtherance of his nefarious schemes.
With respect to the first victim, Ilg directed the purported hitmen to assault a Spokane-area doctor, specifying that the victim “should be given a significant beating that is obvious. It should injure both hands significantly or break the hands.” As part of this scheme, Ilg paid more than $2,000 in Bitcoin, sent the purported hitmen the victim’s address, and provided the hitmen with a link to the victim’s picture. In followup messages, Ilg directed “I would like to see evidence that it happened. If this goes well, I have another, more complicated job” for “[a]n entirely different target with entirely different objectives.”
Ilg also solicited purported hitmen to kidnap a second victim: his estranged wife. Specifically, Ilg directed that she be kidnapped and injected with heroin – all so she would drop divorce proceedings that were pending at the time and return to a failed relationship with Ilg. Even though Ilg was subject to a no-contact order, he devised a bonus structure if the victim was in fact kidnapped and certain goals were achieved. Ilg again promised the hitmen that he had “other jobs worth quite a bit to accomplish in the near future. So, if all goes well, then we can work together on a few other things also.” In all, Ilg paid more than $60,000 in Bitcoin so the hitmen would kidnap this victim.
After the FBI obtained copies of Ilg’s dark web messages, he also obstructed justice. First, during a voluntary interview with the FBI, Ilg falsely claimed he paid the hitmen to kill him, rather than his victims. Second, Ilg sent a letter to a key witness against him, begging the witness to marry him so he could control whether she testified. He even offered to pay tuition for the witness’s children to attend St. Aloysius Catholic School and Gonzaga Preparatory School. Ilg also directed the witness to destroy evidence by burning Ilg’s letter. More recently, and after pleading guilty to his crimes, Ilg sought “a book or movie deal” so that Ilg could obtain “a lot of financial gain” from his crimes.
“This case demonstrates how violent offenders exploit cyberspace and cryptocurrency to further their criminal agendas,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “Mr. Ilg solicited and paid for multiple dark web hitmen to target the two victims in this case. Mr. Ilg even stated he would target additional victims if the hitmen followed through with the plan to harm these first two victims.” U.S. Attorney Waldref continued: “The amount of money Mr. Ilg paid to advance his schemes and his efforts to obstruct justice in this case indicate Mr. Ilg would stop at nothing to maintain control over his victims. Thankfully, the FBI learned of Mr. Ilg’s scheme and prevented him from following through on his plans to harm another doctor and kidnap his estranged wife. I am grateful to the tremendous investigative agents and Assistant United States Attorneys Richard Barker and Patrick Cashman, who spent significant time and resources to ensure that our community continues to be safe and strong, and that individuals who perpetrate violent and cyber crimes are held accountable.”
“Mr. Ilg’s actions read like plot of a true-crime show, but his intentions had real-life consequences,” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “Despite his efforts to remain anonymous and subsequently cover up his activities, our investigators were able to prevent innocent people from being harmed. This case demonstrates that even the anonymity of the dark web will not prevent the FBI from identifying and disrupting individuals who are intent on engaging in criminal activity. I am thankful for our partnership with the US Attorney’s Office, which brought Mr. Ilg to justice.”
“The victims in this case demonstrated incredible courage,” stated Assistant United States Attorney Richard Barker, who led the prosecution. “Even before Mr. Ilg sent his terrifying messages through the dark web and paid more than $60,000 to multiple purported hitmen, Mr. Ilg sought to manipulate and maintain control his victims – sending them harassing text messages, placing GPS trackers on their cars, and even subjecting them to domestic abuse. Following his arrest, Mr. Ilg even tried to thwart the case against him by obstructing justice. Incredibly, he even attempted to profit from his crimes by offering to sell his story to the media.” AUSA Barker continued, “I’m grateful for the victims’ willingness to stand up to Mr. Ilg. As a result of their courage and the incredible work of the FBI, Mr. Ilg – who was a doctor and had a clean criminal history – will spend the better part of the next decade in federal prison.”
This case was investigated by the Spokane Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Richard R. Barker and Patrick J. Cashman, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington, prosecuted this case. Brian M. Donovan, Civil Chief for the United States Attorney’s Office, assisted with seeking restitution and the imposition of a fine against Ilg.