Former Yaletown socialite facing U.S. drug charges

Vancouver businessman Rick Bafaro and his ex-wife Jessica Ruth were hailed in 2002 as one of Yaletown’s “glam couples.”

They owned a pair of trendy stores and hairstylist Ruth had dyed the locks of three Vancouver Canucks platinum blond for the 2001 first-round Stanley Cup playoffs.

Today, 45-year-old Bafaro sits in jail in Washington state facing drug-smuggling charges. He’s been named in court documents as the ringleader in a plan to hike into the U.S. carrying backpacks stuffed with B.C. bud. He was arrested, along with four other men, on April 26.

“In one sense it was a complete shock and in another sense it’s not shocking at all,” Bafaro’s ex-wife told The Province on Thursday. “When I say it’s not shocking, it’s not like he’s been involved in this before. But he’s one of these people who’s really artistic and starts going with the flow and doesn’t really think about what he’s doing and how it’s affecting others.”

The Bafaros split up four years ago and Ruth, 40, said her main concern now is the welfare of the couple’s eight-year-old son, Julian. “He’s eight, he’s just starting to read and he’s at a special school for children with learning disabilities,” she said. “He knows what happened. The idea that his dad could be so foolish to make a choice that wouldn’t just affect him but everyone around him, especially his son – I don’t even know the word for it.”

Ruth, who owns Stratosphere hair salon on Granville Street, described her ex-husband as a “free spirit” who “wasn’t grounded” after their divorce.

According to court documents filed in Seattle, Bafaro was arrested at the Best Western Hotel in Bellingham, after four other men were caught in the woods south of the U.S. border. Federal customs and immigration agents found four backpacks in the forest containing 11 heat-sealed plastic bags of marijuana weighing 60.49 kilograms.

The other four men included two respected entrepreneurs, former Telus marketing director Chris Neary, who’s in his mid-30s, and Duncan fitness club owner Daryl Fontana, 37. Also arrested were Sinisa Gavric and Carl

Thiessen.

In court documents, Fontana made a written statement saying he’d met Bafaro on April 19 and Bafaro had told Fontana he stood to make $10,000.

“That would require me backpacking 25-plus pounds of marijuana across the border into the U.S.,” Fontana wrote. “Rick, as far as I know, was the main facilitator of this job. He organized the buying of equipment, the packing of the marijuana and the logistics of the transport from Canada to the U.S.”

According to court documents, Bafaro told U.S. federal agents he was going to be paid “approximately $300 per pound of smuggled marijuana” – or about $40,000 in total – “and that he did it because he needed the money.”

Ruth painted a picture of her ex-husband as an “eccentric, very charismatic person, with lots of energy,” who loved to be part of a team.

“For years and years he tried to make the NHL,” she said. “I could see how people could get taken in and wrapped up in what he’s doing. He’s incredibly active and is in amazing shape and, probably, some kind of strange opportunity came up.”

Ruth said that while her ex-­husband was not making custody payments, he did see his son every weekend. She said Bafaro had two tattoos, one with her name and the other their son’s name.

Before they divorced, the couple were part-owners of Zero Gravity Clothing and Stratosphere hair salon, which was then in Yaletown.

Ruth said she doesn’t plan on going to Bafaro’s trial, which is scheduled for July 6 in U.S. District Court in Seattle. “I’m going for sole custody [of Julian],” she said grimly. “That’s the trial I’m going to.”

She said she’ll leave it up to her son to decide if he wants to go to his father’s trial: “Julian, at this point, doesn’t want to go, not because he doesn’t want to see his dad, but the whole idea scares him a bit.”

Ruth said that, as far as she knows, her ex-husband wasn’t involved in drugs. “Of course, it always makes you doubt things now,” she added.

A letter was filed in court from Bafaro’s girlfriend, Julie Bevacqua, a Vancouver software marketing director.

She described Bafaro as a “compassionate and caring person, encouraging friend and a wonderful, dedicated father.”

She said Bafaro’s “recent divorce was immensely stressful and an unsettling event for him. The guilt over his failure and perceived impact on his . . . son . . . affects him every day.”

Bafaro is charged with conspiracy to distribute and import marijuana and possession with intent to distribute pot.

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