A doctor who attempted to hire hitmen to kidnap and blackmail his own wife tried to sell his life story, referring to it as “50 Shades of Grey on steroids” and claiming it presented “a lot of potential for financial gain,” it was revealed at his sentencing on Tuesday.
Dr. Ron Ilg, a 57-year-old Spokane neonatologist who pleaded guilty to plots against his wife and a former colleague, was given eight years in prison in a dramatic three-hour hearing that included allegations of non-consensual bondage and a live reading of some of his previously undiscovered letters.
“It was really egregious behavior, it was abhorrent, it was evil,” U.S. District Judge William Fremming Nielsen told Ilg. “The things you were asking unknown people on the dark web to do to people you love was just unbelievable.”
Ilg was arrested in April 2021 on suspicion of attempting to hire the hitmen on the dark web. Prosecutors said he sent messages under the username “Scar215,” instructing the hitmen to give his ex-colleague a “significant beating” and break her hands. (Ilg had recently been fired from the medical group where they both worked—something his defense attorney said sent him into a depressive spiral.)
Weeks later, Ilg sent instructions through another site to kidnap his estranged wife, inject her with heroin, and threaten her until she agreed to drop divorce proceedings and come home to him. He allegedly offered a bonus if she agreed to be intimate with him and to “keep her mouth shut and tell no one, ever about the kidnapping.” According to prosecutors, Ilg spent $60,000 in Bitcoin on the schemes, which were never executed.
Ilg pleaded guilty to two counts of threats of interstate commerce in August in exchange for a maximum sentence of five years for each offense. In a sentencing memo, his lawyers sought 60 months in prison, claiming he was the victim of a mental health crisis and “extremely remorseful for his actions.” Prosecutors asked for no less than 96 months, $30,966 in restitution, a fine of $250,000, and 36 months supervised release.
Prior to his arrest, Ilg was involved in a complex love triangle involving his estranged wife and a mistress he was attempting to integrate into their relationship. The mistress, who later became a key witness for the prosecution, told agents that Ilg locked her in a bunker outside his house and forced her to sign a “sex slave” contract in blood as part of a “dominant-submissive” relationship in which he required her to participate.
This love triangle was further complicated by Ilg’s jailhouse romance with the wife of his former cellmate. As The Daily Beast previously reported, Ilg met and became engaged to the woman through letters and phone calls while incarcerated in Spokane County jail. Tuesday’s hearing was punctuated by the reading of recently discovered letters from Ilg to his now-former fiancee —prosecutors say he is no longer engaged—that show him disparaging his ex-wife and encouraging his fiancee to reach out to his former mistress, who had already taken out an order of protection against him.
In one letter, Ilg proposed a revenge scheme, telling his fiancee to use a private social media account to post false information about a supposed “leak” showing his ex- wife was behind the messages to the hitmen. He also wanted her to post a fabrication that his ex-wife had slammed the door in the face of a reporter who asked why she wasn’t allowing Ilg visitation with their 8-year-old son. “[My ex-wife] is no innocent princess,” he wrote in a letter. “It would be eye opening if somehow this information was posted online where she and everyone else could see it.”
In other letters, Ilg attempted to ensnare his fiancee in a plan to sell the rights to his life story using a twist on the 50 Shades franchise as the pitch. He instructed her to reach out to publishing companies and fantasized about building an “empire” together, suggesting they could make a million dollars a year after his release.
“This could be giant,” he wrote.
Prosecutors also played a recording of a phone call Ilg placed in November, while incarcerated, in which he told someone that his story had “a lot of potential for a book slash movie deal” and “a lot of potential for financial gain.”
“This defendant wants to make money off of what he did,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Barker said at the hearing. “This is not someone who had a three-and-a-half month lapse … This is somebody that continues to present a danger.”
The judge seemed to agree, sentencing Ilg to the maximum possible under his plea deal, plus three years’ probation. While he acknowledged that Ilg had expressed remorse, Nielsen said his letters and conduct while incarcerated “makes me wonder how serious that feeling of remorse really is.”
Ilg’s ex wife also called for the highest possible punishment in a blistering witness statement in which she called him a “master manipulator and a con artist.” During their marriage, she said, Ilg forced her to submit to his dominant-submissive preferences, making her refer to him as “sir” and to sign a “ridiculous set of rules” to follow.
She said that several times she woke up at night to find herself tied down with ropes or chains, and she claimed that Ilg had once grabbed her by the throat and pinned her to the bed while she was holding their son. When she protested, she said, he would threaten to withdraw financial support or take away her car or phone.
Even after she found a full-time job and started plotting her escape, Ilg would park outside of her work or place trackers on her car, she said. To this day, she said, she locks her office door between clients for fear that Ilg will send someone in to harm her.
“All I wanted to do was get out of a toxic marriage and be left alone,” she said. “If.. he hadn't gotten caught, I don't know what he would have done to get his way.”
Ilg stumbled through his lengthy statement at the hearing, often struggling to speak through tears. He apologized profusely to the victims and claimed to say morning devotionals in their honor.
He also claimed to have been in withdrawal from psychiatric medication when he wrote a letter to his mistress begging her to marry him so she would not testify against him. At one point the judge had to interrupt him when he began describing in detail the screams of other inmates also in withdrawal at the jail. “I’m not sure we need to get into that,” Nielsen said.
Ilg previously served chief medical director of a multistate neonatology management group and as chief medical officer at Maddie’s Place, a charity for children with drug-dependent parents. He was fired from the management group after a human resources investigation that he says focused on his sexual relationships with women.
At one point during the hearing, his defense attorney tried to suggest Ilg was again being “persecuted” for his alternative sexual preferences, this time by the government. Baker later told the judge that the prosecution had “no beef” with Ilg’s sexual proclivities.
“The defendant is not being persecuted in this case, your Honor,” he said. “He’s being prosecuted for the things he did.”