SPOKANE – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Ronald Craig Ilg, age 55, of Spokane, Washington has pled guilty to Transmitting Threats in Interstate Commerce for his role in a scheme to hire multiple hitmen on the so-called “dark web.” Ilg faces a statutory maximum sentence of ten years in federal prison and up to three years supervised release.
As part of the plea agreement, the United States and Ilg agreed to a sentencing range of 60 to 96 months. Sentencing is scheduled for November 8, 2022 at 9:00 a.m. before United States Senior District Judge William Fremming Nielsen.
According to court documents, Ilg, a former neonatologist in the Spokane area, transmitted dozens of messages in early 2021 through the dark web as part of a plot to harm 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 follow up 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.”
With respect to his second victim, Ilg solicited purported hitmen to kidnap this victim, have her injected with heroin – all so she would drop divorce proceedings that were pending at the time and return to the failed relationship with Ilg. Notwithstanding that Ilg was subject to a no-contact order at this time, Ilg devised a bonus structure if the victim was in fact kidnapped and certain goals were achieved. Here again, Ilg 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 transferred approximately $60,000 in Bitcoin in furtherance of the scheme to have his estranged wife kidnapped.
After the FBI obtained copies of Ilg’s dark web messages, he took certain actions to obstruct justice in this case. First, during a voluntary interview with the FBI, Ilg falsely claimed he paid the hitmen to kill himself. Second, Ilg sent a letter to a key witness against him – begging the witness marry him so he could control whether she testified. He also offered to pay tuition for the witness’s children to attend Gonzaga Preparatory School and St. Aloysius Catholic School in Spokane, Washington. Ilg even directed the witness to destroy evidence by burning Ilg’s letter.
“This case demonstrates how violent offenders exploit cyberspace and cryptocurrency to further their criminal agendas,” U.S. Attorney Waldref stated. “Mr. Ilg solicited and paid for multiple dark web hitmen to target the two victims in this case. Mr. Ilg also wanted to 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.”
“This investigation is an example for would be criminals who mistakenly believe they are anonymous online,” said Michael Heiler, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “As with this case, the FBI will continue to identify those individuals who are conducting criminal activity online, and, working with our partners, hold them accountable.”
This case is being 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, are prosecuting this case.