The petition for a restraining order, from a woman in Spokane, Washington, is straight to the point. She and the respondent, a man named Ron Ilg, are going through a difficult divorce, and she is afraid he will try to hurt her. Asked for evidence of any harassing behavior, she writes simply: “Respondent ordered a hit on me through the dark web to be kidnapped and drugged for 7 days in an effort to force me to return to our marriage.”

“I believe he would hurt our son to get to me,” she adds later. “I believe we are both in imminent danger.”

Ronald Craig Ilg is a successful, 55-year-old doctor born and raised in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. From a small town of fewer than 4,000 residents, Ilg moved to Portland for his medical training, then to Orchard Prairie, an unincorporated community outside Spokane. He served as a neonatologist, caring for preterm infants, and worked his way up to chief medical director of a multistate neonatology management group. In 2007, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the school board in Orchard Prairie’s 70-student school district, where he described himself as a “moderate conservative.” (He received 38 votes; the top vote-getting candidate got 127.) He married and divorced a local woman, then remarried an esthetician 15 years his junior. Their son was born in 2018.

But behind the bucolic, almost tedious normalcy of Ilg’s life lay a dark interior. Approximately two years ago, the doctor entered a secret BDSM relationship with another woman, who would later claim Ilg trapped her in an underground bunker and forced her to sign a sex slave contract in blood. He placed tracking devices on his second wife’s car and cellphone, according to affidavits she submitted in court, and threatened to take away her belongings if she refused to acquiesce to his sexual demands. (Confronted about the tracking devices, his wife claims, he told her they were for her own protection.)

In the spring of 2019, according to a lawsuit Ilg filed, the neonatology group where he worked received two complaints about his behavior—one alleging harassment and one about his scheduling practices. While Ilg claims the complaints were entirely unsubstantiated, news of them spread quickly through the office. Several co-workers said they were so horrified by the questions asked during his HR investigation that they could not look him in the eye. Rumors started spreading that he was bringing a weapon into the NICU. His higher-ups eventually asked him to step down as medical director and, when he did not, eliminated the position entirely. (The company did not respond to requests for comment.)

Ilg’s second wife filed for divorce in June 2020. In December, as tensions increased at work, the neonatology group let him go. Jobless and desperate to reconcile with his ex, Ilg sent his estranged wife hundreds of text messages in the weeks following, begging her to stay and even offering to pay her if she dropped the divorce proceedings. Her attorney emailed his lawyer, asking for him to limit contact to conversations about their son, but he refused.

Ron is spiraling and continues to get worse.

“Ron is spiraling and continues to get worse, to where now he is threatening to come to my home despite my opposition,” his wife wrote in an application for a restraining order on Dec 21. “This has to stop.” (Ilg’s attorney, Carl Oreskovtich, told The Daily Beast his client had “made some mistakes” in terms of contacting his wife, but that any suggestion that he had stalked or injured her was “just frankly not true.”)

In a reply brief on Dec 30, Ilg claimed he was in a “raw emotional state” from his firing and his ex-wife’s rejection. He claimed he had learned his lesson and would not bother her again. But in the weeks following, she claims in court filings, he parked outside her workplace, sent her dozens of text messages, and pretended to drop a lengthy, typewritten letter in front of her in hopes that she would pick it up.

“I do love you, more than words can describe, more than actions can show,” he wrote in the letter. “Every fiber of my body, every ounce of my life energy calls out for you.”

Three months later, he would be in FBI custody.

It would be unfortunate if her older boy became addicted to heroin. Or her dad be severely beaten or her dog be slaughtered.

Scar215

The first messages from the account called Scar215 came in February. Sent to an unnamed site on the dark web offering murder-for-hire services, they requested that a hit man visit a woman’s home and give her a “significant beating.” (The hired assailant should “injure both hands significantly or break the hands,” the messages said.) The account owner provided the target’s name and home address, and placed nearly $2,000 in Bitcoin in escrow to be released when the job was done.

Experts who study these websites, which offer confidential, untraceable services in exchange for cryptocurrency, say they are almost entirely scams. Not a single murder has ever been tied back to them, according to The New York Times. It appears Scar215’s initial request was unsuccessful. But a month afterward, he messaged the same website with another assignment, this one almost impressive in its deviousness: to kidnap and torture another woman, in hopes of convincing her to return to her husband.

The plan—according to messages allegedly sent by Scar215’s and obtained by the FBI—was to kidnap the woman while her children were away, take her to a secure location, and inject her with heroin twice daily for a week. She would be taught to administer the injections herself and videotaped doing so, “for bribery later.” Drug needles and paraphernalia containing her DNA would be scattered around her house.

Her release from this nightmarish prison would be conditioned on four promises: that she return to her husband, drop all court proceedings against him, and be physically intimate with him at least three times in the weeks that followed. And she could never tell anyone about what happened.

“She should be told that her families[sic] health, including her father and her kids, depend on her completing these rules,” Scar215 wrote. “It would be unfortunate if her older boy became addicted to heroin. Or her dad be severely beaten or her dog be slaughtered.”

By early April, Scar215 had reached out to yet another dark-web site, hoping to have his request completed by the second weekend of the month. He told the site he had put $5,000 in bitcoin for them in escrow, and that another $10,000 would be coming to them the next day. He promised an extra $40,000 if all of his goals were achieved in the allotted time frame.

“Please have your man begin this weekend and send a timeline AND pics and videos the day he starts as verification,” he wrote. “I will do my best to answer any questions in a timely manner.”

One of the messages recovered from the dark web.

U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Washington

On April 8, the day before Scar215’s plot was set to take place, Ilg was vacationing in Mexico with his mistress. She had been in touch with his estranged wife before—mainly to plead with her to drop the protective order against Ilg—but this time she had a more frightening message. “Some strange stuff has happened while we have been here,” the mistress texted. “I need to talk to you asap when we get back.”

The girlfriend would later tell the FBI that, much as he had wanted his estranged wife to do, Ilg required her to call him “sir” and submit to various punishments he devised—including sitting alone for hours in an underground bunker outside his home. At one point during the Mexico trip, according to a criminal complaint, she took Ilg’s cellphone and threw it into a pool. The couple fought and, according to FBI agents who heard recordings of the incident, she begged him to stop hurting her and struggled to breathe. Afterward, she says, he forced her to sign a contract requiring her to “unconditionally accept what [Ilg] would like to do.” The document, presented in a court hearing in April, was stamped with both of their fingerprints in blood.

The mistress also told agents she had previously noticed Ilg using the dark web. When she confronted him, she said, he claimed he only used it for gambling. But she knew from a previous trip to Vegas that her boyfriend was not a gambler.

”You hired someone from the dark web to hurt [your estranged wife],” she wrote to him in text messages provided to the FBI. “Leave me alone forever. I’m scared of you.”

On April 11, when Ilg and his mistress returned from Mexico, they were met at the Spokane airport by FBI agents. Unbeknownst to Ilg, a team of BBC journalists had unearthed the messages sent by Scar215 through a confidential source. They identified the targets as one of Ilg’s former co-workers and his estranged wife. (The co-worker, whose hands Scar215 wanted broken, told the FBI Ilg might have believed she was involved with the workplace complaints against him.) The journalists notified his wife, whose attorneys brought it to the attention of the FBI.

On April 9, while Ilg was still in Mexico, FBI agents requested records from a cryptocurrency platform called Coinbase.com. The records showed that all of the funds associated with Scar215’s bitcoin transactions originated from a Coinbase account in the name of Ron Ilg, which was also connected to Ilg’s phone number, email address, and social security number. In a raid on his home that day, agents found a fingerprint-operated safe containing a sticky note with the name “Scar215” and an apparent password. They also found two concrete holes in the ground that required ladders to get out—holes that looked a lot like underground bunkers.

Ilg’s estranged wife provided the FBI with a history of their relationship and the text messages she had received from his mistress. She also handed over screenshots of text messages Ilg had allegedly sent their son’s nanny, describing a sexual fantasy that involved kidnapping his wife. He described it as a way to “get the adrenaline flowing” and asked her to help him open the car doors during the abduction.

At the airport that day, according to a criminal complaint, Ilg requested a lawyer but continued talking without one. He allegedly confessed to trying to use the dark web to hire a hitman under the name “Scar2something,” but insisted the intended target was not his former coworker or estranged wife, but himself. He wanted to die by hitman and make it look like an accident, he claimed, so that all of his assets could flow to his mistress. Asked whether he had updated his will to reflect this, however, he told officers he had not. According to the FBI, the websites he used have a policy against performing suicides.

The agents allowed Ilg to return home after questioning at the airport. But the next day, they received one more surprise: a call from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office telling them Ilg had attempted suicide.

U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Washington

Shaun Cross, the CEO of Maddie’s Place, a charity for drug-dependent infants where Ilg volunteered for years, calls the doctor’s case a “Jekyll and Hyde situation.” For four years, the team at Maddie’s Place knew him as nothing more than an esteemed neonatologist who lent valuable medical expertise and a dose of credibility to the fledgling organization. They knew he was going through a divorce, they knew he had been let go from his job, but these seemedto Cross at leastto be more the result of misfortune than malfeasance.

“Here’s someone that was a highly trained, highly skilled, highly recognized neonatologist working on a volunteer basis,” Cross said. “And then just all of a sudden, this happens.”

In his apology letter to his estranged wife—three pages, single spaced—Ilg comes across as a heartbroken lover desperate to earn back her affection. He promises that he’s changed, that he has cried with a grown man over Bible study and cleansed his darkened soul. He offers to leave his mistress, wear a body camera, sell his house, and buy a new one in her name—to “give everything I have away,” just so they can have a fresh start.

“At times, I have wanted to hate you,” he wrote. “That would be easier than this emptiness and pain I feel inside without you. But I can’t. I simply can’t. I love you with a real and true love that will never end, despite what happens.”

But in text messages, his manipulation and need for control seeps out. He begs her to call him multiple times—in violation of their no-contact order—claiming he just wants to talk logistics. He calls her himself, then blames it on their son. He threatens to take the 2-year-old out of state with him on a business trip, rather than “spend the money having our lawyers work it out.”

By the time he wrote his suicide note, the “love that will never end” had turned to hatred.

“You mocked my love. You made fun of it. Why??” he wrote in a portion of the note addressed to her, before asking her to split his assets with his mistress. “You laughed with your family + coworkers.”

Ilg was taken into custody April 16, four days after his suicide attempt, and charged with attempted kidnapping. In a court hearing in early April, according to local newspaper The Inlander, he was recalcitrant, shaking his head at the allegations and scrawling notes to his attorney. The judge in his case, reviewing his petition to be released on bail, made special note of his intelligence, his assets, and his “willingness to be vicious and devious.”

Since being arrested, Ilg has lost his position at Maddie’s Place and his lawyers in the suit against the neonatology group. His wife and former mistress have both asked for him to be held without bail, saying they fear for their safety. (His first wife, whom he divorced in 2012, has volunteered to let him live with her and to serve as a witness for the defense.) A judge sided with the first two women last week.

Ilg has pleaded not guilty, and his attorney has argued there is no concrete evidence that he is Scar215. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Oreskovich suggested that Ilg’s account had been hacked and the messages sent by someone else. He also claimed that Ilg’s sexual relationships with both his wife and mistress were consensual—though “different than, for a lack of other terms, what the norm is.” He is filing a second petition to have Ilg released on bond this week.

Ilg called The Daily Beast from his jail cell last week, in an attempt to clear his name. He refused to speak on the record but promised a statement from his attorney. No such statement was ever provided.

His estranged wife, meanwhile, finally received the order of protection she applied for in April, after the BBC journalists approached her with the messages. As of May 10, Ilg was barred from coming near or having any contact with both his wife and their son.

But in her application for that restraining order, his wife wrestled with the idea that she may never feel safe. She did not know how long the investigation would take, whether her husband would serve time, or what his charges would mean for their divorce proceedings. She did not know if the hits he’d ordered were real or fake. More concerningly, she no longer knew what the man she married was capable of.

In a statement attached to the filing, she revealed that Ilg called her from his hospital bed the day after his suicide attempt—disregarding an emergency protective order and the federal investigation against him—to ask her to deliver a message to his mistress.

“The respondent already knew that he is under federal investigation for trying to hire a hitman to harm me and has been served with the protection order, and he still contacts me to ask me to give a message to his girlfriend,” she wrote.

Noting that Ilg had “no issue violating court orders” she asked the court for every possible protection from him allowed by law.

She added: “The respondent is unstable and will clearly stop at nothing to hurt me and our son.”

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