Crested Butte firefighters say fraudster Steve Bachar impersonated them

On Jan. 19, 2022, a man applied to be a volunteer firefighter in Crested Butte.

On his application, he provided character references but wrote “n/a” under employment and “n/a” again when asked about his first responder experience. Crucially, he checked the “yes” box beside the question, “May we check your criminal history report?”

“We do our due diligence to make sure that we catch this before we invite folks into the fire district,” said Veronica Jarolimek, volunteer coordinator at the Crested Butte Fire Protection District. “Because it’s not my fire department, it’s the community’s fire department.”

The applicant on that cold, dry winter day in the mountains was Steven Charles Bachar, a then-56-year-old former lawyer and businessman facing theft charges in Denver who has defied court orders to pay millions of dollars to companies that he took money from.

The Crested Butte Fire Protection District runs background checks on volunteer applicants. In April 2022, that check came back showing Bachar’s pending felony charge, according to a copy of Bachar’s application that BusinessDen obtained in an open records request.

Six days later, Jarolimek saw Bachar outside a Crested Butte coffee shop he frequents.

“I looked up and down the street to make sure we had some privacy and I said, ‘We don’t take members who have bad driving records, felony charges, misdemeanors — and you have a felony charge,’” the volunteer coordinator recalled. “Of course, he tried to blame it on his wife and I said, ‘It doesn’t matter. I don’t care why you have one, we can’t put you on as a member.’ I said, ‘Get it cleared, come back and talk to the fire chief.’”

Thirteen months later, Bachar’s felony theft charge has not been cleared. He pleaded guilty to that and misdemeanor theft in November as part of a plea agreement, but that plea agreement was rejected by Denver District Court Judge Eric Johnson in March. Bachar is scheduled to appear in Johnson’s courtroom Monday morning for another hearing in the case.

Bachar’s application to be a firefighter reveals that despite periodic court hearings in downtown Denver, he has spent considerable time in an expensive ski town four hours away.

Back in Crested Butte, Jarolimek claims that Bachar falsely told people around town that he was a volunteer firefighter in order to acquire the smallest of small-town perks.

“He went to one of the local car shops and got his oil changed and he said, ‘Hey, I’m a volunteer on the local fire department, can I pay you later?’ The shop owner was like, ‘Yeah, we’re friends with the local fire department,’” according to Jarolimek.

She said the shop owner later asked an assistant fire chief, Jeff Duke, why one of his volunteers never paid. The assistant chief asked which volunteer, was given the name Steve Bachar, told the owner that Bachar isn’t a firefighter, and apologized to him.

“It’s hard to tell what he said exactly to the auto repair shop. He definitely did not pay in a timely manner,” Duke recalled of Bachar. “The shop owner was under the impression that he was volunteering or working towards it and went out of his way to help.”

“I’m hearing two different stories from Steve and the shop owner,” Duke said. “Of course, I believe the shop owner. The shop owner goes out of his way to support us.”

Duke said that after considerable coaxing, Bachar eventually paid the auto shop owner.

“This put a sour taste in his mouth,” the assistant chief recalled by phone last week, “so I basically hounded Steve every chance I could get to get him to pay.”

Bachar did not reply to a phone call and voicemail from BusinessDen seeking his response to that claim. His lawyer, Robert Swestka, also did not respond.

Jarolimek declined to name the auto shop. A year later, she still gets animated and angry when discussing Bachar, for whom she has choice words.

“What really bothers me,” Jarolimek said, “is that creeps like him — we lose our privileges, our community respect, our community balance due to creeps like him.”

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This story was reported by our partner BusinessDen.

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