News and Press Releases

Defendant Lost $70,000 Worth of Marijuana on a Previous Smuggling Attempt

October 15, 2010

RICHARD BAFARO, 45, of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 30 months in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute marijuana. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled that BAFARO was the leader of a group of men who attempted to smuggle $300,000 worth of marijuana into the U.S. from Canada by back-packing the drugs along a treacherous snowshoe trail. BAFARO tried to claim the men were all equals in the scheme, but Judge Pechman said, “These were your friends. They didn’t just show up at the border with backpacks of marijuana. You showed them how to do it and where to go.”

According to records filed in the case, on April 26, 2010, agents were investigating snowshoe tracks that crossed the international border with Canada in the Canyon Creek area of Mt. Baker and the Snoqualmie National Forest. They located three Canadians hiding in the woods – Christopher Neary, Daryl Fontana, and Sinsa Gavric. Investigators also located four backpacks, each containing about 30 pounds of BC Bud marijuana. A fourth defendant, Carl Theissen was arrested as he arrived on the remote forest service road to pick the men up. RICHARD BAFARO was arrested at a Bellingham motel where the men had planned to meet up. In the initial interviews BAFARO was identified as the person who organized the trip, and Theissen revealed he had assisted BAFARO in smuggling runs on two prior occasions.

In court today, a tearful BAFARO apologized for his crime, but denied he had recruited his friends to the scheme. BAFARO revealed he had been forced to pay Canadian drug suppliers $70,000 when he lost a prior load of marijuana he was trying to smuggle into the U.S. BAFARO says he purchased a snowmobile and stored it outside of Bellingham so that he could search for the drugs and try to retrieve them. During one of those trips to try to retrieve the drugs one of BAFARO’s friends was badly injured and had to be airlifted, near death, from the Canadian wilderness.

Neary, Fontana and Gavric were sentenced to 8 months in prison. Theissen was sentenced to a year in prison. Prosecutors asked for the 30 month sentence for BAFARO noting it was appropriate to his role in the crime. “BAFARO, a resident and citizen of Canada, participated in a eight hour journey to hike across the international boundary between the United States and Canada, and distribute marijuana in the Western District of Washington. BAFARO also organized the venture, recruited participants, lead the participants through the route, and told the other participants that he would pay them thousands of dollars for their efforts,” Assistant United States Attorney Lisca Borichewski wrote in her sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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