Ben Fodor’s alter ego, Phoenix Jones, was the leader of the city’s Rain City Superhero Movement and would don a black and gold costume — with a mask and fake six-pack abs — and insert himself into incidents of street violence, once dousing a group of people with pepper spray to break up a fight Seattle police later said wasn’t a fight at all.
In recent years, Phoenix Jones largely disappeared from Seattle streets and his nocturnal crime-fighting went dark. But Fodor’s name resurfaced last year when two confidential witnesses told a Seattle police-narcotics detective that Fodor was a drug dealer, with one of them expressing disbelief that he hadn’t yet been caught, court records show.
Fodor, 31, and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Andrea Berendsen, were arrested on Jan. 9, but were released from jail on Jan. 11, pending further investigation by police, jail and court records show.
On Monday, Fodor was charged with two counts of violation of the uniform control substances act (VUCSA): The first charge is for allegedly selling MDMA — a street drug known as Ecstasy or Molly — to an undercover agent in November, delivering the drugs in a paper bag to a downtown Starbucks. The second charge alleges he showed up at a Seattle hotel with Berendsen in January with cocaine they thought they were selling to a group of women. Berendsen, of Edmonds, has been charged with one count of VUCSA.
Both Fodor and Berendsen have been issued summons and are scheduled to appear in court Feb. 3.
According to the charges:
The Seattle police-narcotics detective who got the tips about Fodor being an alleged drug dealer is assigned to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Task Force operated by Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of the federal Department of Homeland Security. After she received the tip sometime last year, a special agent assigned to the task force initiated a text exchange with Fodor in November and arranged to buy $500 worth of MDMA — with Fodor requesting $300 be paid up front through his online Venmo account.
Around 1 p.m. on Nov. 21, Fodor arrived at the Starbucks in the Wells Fargo building on Third Avenue carrying a brown paper bag. He made eye contact and shook hands with the undercover agent he knew as “Mike,” pocketed the $200 balance he was owed, and placed the bag on the table in front of the agent. Their encounter took less than a minute, according to the charges.
Outside, other agents watched Fodor jog to Third and Madison Street and get into the driver’s seat of a car with a woman in the front passenger seat. At 1:05 p.m., “Mike” received a text message from Fodor that read, “Thank you again,” the charges say.
The paper bag contained a purplish powder and empty capsules for street packaging, according to the charges. The powder was weighed and tested and determined to be just more than seven grams of MDMA.
A few days later, “Mike” texted Fodor to arrange another purchase of MDMA and apparently sent Fodor $500 through Venmo, the money-transfer service. They were supposed to meet Nov. 27, but Fodor was a no-show. Fodor texted to explain he could meet later, and they arranged to meet up on Dec. 3. When “Mike” texted him that day to see if they were still meeting, Fodor never responded.
After “Mike” was blown off, the agent created a new undercover identity — this time as “Laura” — and reached out to Fodor on Jan. 6, looking to buy $225 worth of cocaine, the charges allege.
Fodor and “Laura” exchanged text messages over three days. At one point, Fodor gave “Laura” his full name and encouraged her to Google him.
“Laura” responded: “OMG I just googled u … Superhero’s are hot lol. You really a superhero?”
“Laura” went on to explain her friends from Los Angeles were in town for one of their birthdays and she was responsible for getting cocaine for the group. On Jan. 9, the night of the party, Berendsen also exchanged messages with “Laura,” the charges say.
“What’s the plan for tonight? I’m trying to find clothes but ben is unhelpful Lmao,” Berendsen allegedly wrote.
“Hey girl! Plan is to preparty with blow and then whatever comes to mind,” the agent wrote back.
Fodor and Berendsen arrived at a hotel in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood just before 11 p.m. Fodor sat down in the lobby, and Berendsen stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. That’s when an arrest team moved in and took both into custody.
Agents seized four grams of cocaine packaged for street sales along with a scale and empty bindles with suspected cocaine residue in a tacklebox Fodor was carrying, the charges say.