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Firefighter Impersonator Suspect Has Criminal Background

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) - A man accused of impersonating a firefighter at the High Park Fire appeared in court Monday afternoon.

The National Guard noticed the man, identified by police as Michael Maher, 30, in the area and pointed him out to law enforcement.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said Maher was inside Rist Canyon attempting to steal supplies meant for the firefighters. They don't believe he entered any homes. At the Larimer County Courthouse in Fort Collins Maher was accused of stealing radios and batteries from the real firefighters.

According to court documents, Maher told authorities that his identification card that he used to get gain entry into the burn area was an old card from the U.S. Department of Agriculture where he was previously employed. He also said he received the government plates he had on his vehicle from a friend. The plates were found to be stolen out of the Glenwood Springs area.

"Anytime someone, regardless of who it is, who would take advantage of something this severely significant in the community to try and then hurt those who have lost their possessions, who have lost their homes; it's just mind-boggling," Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said.

He was arrested at a bar in Laporte after law enforcement spotted his vehicle. A gun was found inside.

On Maher's Facebook page CBS4 found a picture of Maher posing with Gov. John Hickenlooper last Friday. In other pictures he is seen wearing firefighter gear.

Michael Maher and Gov. John Hickenlooper
Michael Maher and Gov. John Hickenlooper (credit: CBS)

Maher is listed on his Facebook page as an environmental consultant who studied at the University of Colorado. From the photos one could get the impression that he is a firefighter, but Smith says he is not and further precautions have been taken.

"What I want to do is emphasize in addition to our checkpoints, we're still moving those as needed within the areas," Smith said. "We also have, as much as we can, more roving patrols as we can safely put deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement officers into the fire perimeter to watch these areas."

Maher has a prior arrest for unlawful sexual contact. He decline requests from CBS4 for an interview saying he needs to contact an attorney.

A neighbor of Maher's in Denver has a different view of the suspect.

"Disbelief, shocked. I've known Mike for a year. He's become a great friend," the neighbor said.

Maher's next court appearance is scheduled for June 25.

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