scorpion by elvinagraph / getty images

The fateful package arrived in Chicago in mid-March, just days after its 20-year-old recipient sent an encrypted email and $70 in Bitcoin to a man he knew on Reddit as “ScorpionDNP.” The package was sent from a Southwest Portland zip code.

Inside was a small white pill bottle with a black scorpion logo.

The supplier included a figurative wink-and-a-nudge label, saying the pills were to be placed into a water bottle and shaken before spraying the solution on indoor plants to protect them from “pests and microbes.”

The pill-based “pesticide” was a substance known as “DNP”—or “2,4-Dinitrophenol” to you chemists—and was first used for the production of ammunition in France in World War I. It’s now used legally as a pesticide, and in dyes and wood preservatives.

But ScorpionDNP wasn’t giving any genuine horticultural advice, and the young man from Chicago didn’t pay $70 in cryptocurrency for the sake of any plant—he swallowed the pills instead.

The Chicago man ingested the DNP to drop weight, just like all the others who populate the DNP-focused Reddit forums and Discord channels in search of a magic pill to help them obtain a lean physique, regardless of the health and legal risks.

These people, bodybuilders particularly, are willing to put up with the “sides”—dangerously elevated body temperatures, accelerated heart rate, extreme sweating, yellowing skin, dehydration, debilitating fatigue, likely nerve damage, and potential death—in order to burn fat and, in their minds, appear more attractive. However, the Food and Drug Administration has banned DNP for human consumption since the 1930s, due to numerous deaths.

Until recently, ScorpionDNP was the most trusted name in the online black market DNP game. Few knew his real identity, where he lived, or how he got his stuff, but he’s the guy to whom physique freaks would turn for the precious pills and advice on how to consume them. To many in the online DNP-consuming community, “Scorp” was a go-to scientist, makeshift physician, and their most trusted supplier. They used his online dosage calculator, read his guides, and asked him questions. He was the king of DNP.

Now he’s essentially disappeared from the internet, leaving behind only a few scant traces of his past self, and a lot of confused former customers wondering what the hell happened.

“Has anyone heard from Scorpion in the last couple days?” a frantic poster on the Discord app’s DNP channel asked on December 6. “He’s still in business, right? Shit’s all fucked up since reddit started banning subs, I can’t keep track of anyone now.”

Another user reassured him that Scorpion was still active: “yeah scorp is still around. he runs this channel lol”

“Cool, thanks,” the user responded. “I emailed him yesterday but haven’t heard back yet so I wasn’t sure if he was on vacation, out of business, taking the day off, or just behind on emails.”

Another poster hadn’t heard back from Scorpion either. Soon more users were growing increasingly paranoid.

“Idk what I would do without scorp,” wrote another. Rumors began to spread.

“If the feds got scorp I’m gonna be pissed,” one posted.

Another wrote, “but real shit? father scorp got raided?”

In fact, the feds did raid “Scorp,” on December 5, 2017.

The feds—the DEA and FDA—have been on to Scorpion for nearly a year. One of the country’s most prominent illicit DNP dealers, it turns out, is a 29-year-old Oregon man named Jonathan McGraw. He operated in Southwest Portland, federal records show, before moving his enterprise to his home in Newberg last fall.


The 20-year-old Chicago man might still be alive if he hadn’t gotten that package from McGraw in March. He died less than two weeks after receiving it.

And McGraw might still be in business if he hadn’t sent it. The Chicagoan’s parents investigated and filled out an online complaint form with the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

The complaint was succinct: “My son purchased these weight-loss pills which contain DNP, and has been banned in the US and illegal to sell for human consumption, and has died from these pills.”

Listed in the form was the seller’s name (“Scorpiondnp”), address (just “Portland OR 97223”), and website (a link to a since-deleted post in the r/ScorpionDNP subreddit). The parents found an email the 20-year-old had sent to ScorpionDNP, seeing that he’d paid the sender $70 in Bitcoin.

Illinois eventually turned this one-page form complaint over to the feds, who started digging. And, according to search warrant affidavits, it wasn’t that hard to unmask the so-called Scorpion.  

In July, Michael Bush, a Chicago-based FDA special agent, logged on to Reddit and checked out the r/ScorpionDNP subreddit post that was linked in the Illinois complaint. He then found McGraw’s website, scorpiondnp.com.

“This content includes instructions for human ingestion of DNP for fat loss, a price list, and instructions for how to pay for the product using Bitcoin,” Bush wrote in an affidavit.

The Reddit page linked to a YouTube video of a so-called “burn test,” where someone lights a DNP pill on fire, its sparks showing its apparent purity. The Google Plus account associated with the YouTube channel was connected to a “Jonathan McGraw.”

Bush then went to the US Postal Inspection Service and, using the tracking number for the Chicago-bound package, verified it was actually sent from Portland.

He then contacted Reddit, who handed over the IP addresses used to access the Scorpion-DNP account. It showed the user was a customer of Frontier Communications and Verizon, so, again, the agent simply got registration info on the IP addresses from those two companies. The Frontier information provided the Southwest Portland address where McGraw was staying with his parents.

Undercover, the agent signed up for an encrypted Tutanota email account and messaged McGraw: “I stated that I had seen the post on Reddit with prices and would like to order some 125mg capsules.” A couple days later, McGraw responded, asking how many he’d like. “I received an email from scorpiondnp@tutanota stating that the price would be $47.50, which included $10 for shipping,” Bush wrote. McGraw emailed a Bitcoin address where his newest customer could submit the money. Bush provided an address in suburban Chicago where the DNP could be sent. McGraw advised him on how to properly dose in a “cycle.”

The Priority Mail package showed up in Chicago just a couple days later, with a Tigard return address and another name. The white bottle with a scorpion logo had simple directions:

“Fill SCORPION spray bottle with 8oz of water. Drop one capsule into water. Close and shake vigorously. Use the 'Fine Spray’ setting for pests and the 'Stream’ setting for root or soil based microbes. Meant for indoor plants only. Not for human consumption.”

Over the next month, the undercover agent got McGraw to give him “advice” on how to cut weight using DNP, finally getting him to directly admit he sold the pills for human consumption. The agent kept buying DNP from him.

In November, McGraw moved to his own new home in a Newberg subdivision. This is where the Chicago-based investigator and other FDA and DEA agents arrived for an old-fashioned stakeout.

On a Tuesday afternoon, agents tailed McGraw from his Newberg home to the post office a few minutes away. Wearing thin black gloves, McGraw put seven Priority Mail packages in the collection boxes.

Agents then installed a hidden camera outside McGraw’s house, tracking his comings and goings.

Two days later, shortly after placing an undercover order with their DNP supplier, the FDA agents were joined by the DEA. Using a stealth camera and undercover agents, they had eyes on him, would watch him ship the product, and finally prove it was McGraw who was the infamous Scorpion.

Bush and another FDA agent continued to stake out the Newberg post office, waiting for McGraw to pull up to the three large blue collection boxes facing the street. McGraw’s old 1988 Honda Accord—the one that had just been spotted on the camera leaving his driveway—pulled up, and a hand wearing a thin black glove popped out of the window, pulling down the hatch of the middle box. An undercover DEA agent walked past the Honda, identifying McGraw using his driver’s license photograph. It was unmistakably the clean-cut 29-year-old.


Doug Brown

On a Tuesday afternoon, agents tailed McGraw from his Newberg home to the post office a few minutes away. Wearing thin black gloves, McGraw put seven Priority Mail packages in the collection boxes.


McGraw, unaware, shoved 18 boxes into the mail and drove away.

The agents, with help from a postal inspector and a post office employee, seized the boxes. Like previous undercover purchases, and the boxes sent two days earlier, it had the same fictitious return address.

Bush opened the package intended for his undercover alias in Chicago. Inside was DNP.

That month, Reddit deleted the Scorpion-DNP account. McGraw quickly created ScorpionDNP2. The agent, again, asked Frontier and Verizon to promptly fork over IP records.

By December—more than four months after Bush started seriously looking into ScorpionDNP and more than eight months after the Chicagoan died—the FDA acquired a search warrant for McGraw’s house.

The raid took place on December 5. The DEA and FDA found a bona fide laboratory inside his garage and house, containing five-gallon drums, bottles of chemicals, a dozen bags of a banned powdered anabolic steroid, three cell phones, six computers, fake IDs, an assault rifle and other loaded guns, and more than $8400 in cash. The feds seized it all, and destroyed the chemicals.

McGraw hasn’t been charged yet—most likely because he quickly ratted out a business partner in the illegal anabolic steroid market.

When the feds raided McGraw’s house, DEA agents found 13 bags full of white powder. Concerned about fentanyl, the agents asked him about it. He told them it was Trenbolone—a controlled anabolic steroid—and he merely processed the raw Trenbolone into an injectable substance before returning it all to a business partner. McGraw then identified this partner—by name and the man’s Tigard address—to the feds.

McGraw’s statements to the feds were the basis for a federal search warrant the FDA executed at the Tigard apartment.

On the same day as the Newberg raid, FDA agents gathered in Tigard to stake out the new target McGraw had given up. Sitting in the parking lot of the apartment complex, the agents spotted three possible suspects—two men and a woman—through the windows. The primary suspect was “wearing a sleeveless shirt,” Bush wrote, and “appeared to be muscular in stature.”

In a nearby dumpster, agents found trash that one of the targets had thrown away, including used syringes, injection vials, containers labeled “Trenbolone,” and vials with Human Growth Hormone. Two days later, they executed the warrant on the apartment, and discovered steroids on the premises, as well as financial records, order histories, and handwritten notes.

Just after the December 5 raid, McGraw tried to wipe his chatroom presence clean. But the Mercury found remnants of his time as an active member on the Discord app’s DNP channel. And it appears he was aware that people had died using his product.

“If you’re a female, and living in a country with extremely strict gun laws, pills tend to be the preferred method (of suicide),” he wrote in July. “Which is why I initially stopped international shipping.”

Someone followed up: “damn dude, did someone buy from you in order to do that?”

“Yes,” McGraw replied.

Two people purporting to be close to McGraw—a “personal friend,” and someone implying she occasionally stays with him—posted on the app about the raid in the days following.

“If you purchased from ScorpionDNP and redistributed in large quantities, you will want to clean house,” his “friend” wrote a day later. “They raided his house, destroyed everything, and then left. Didn’t arrest him charge him, nothing.”

His associates put up a GoFundMe page, attempting to solicit $25,000 for a lawyer, but it was soon taken down. His friend said he has a good lawyer.

“From what scorp has said, his situation sounds promising,” his friend wrote a week after McGraw was raided and informed agents about his steroid business partner. “He should be back on sometime in January.”

In late January the Mercury left a letter at McGraw’s Newberg house, telling him that we wanted to talk to him for this story, stating we knew about the Chicago death, the Reddit account, the Bitcoin, his real name, and that this article was imminent. We wanted his side of the story, we told him. He did not respond. Instead, he immediately deleted every remaining page from his website.