Suspected firefighter impersonator may have stolen equipment
LARIMER COUNTY , Colo. — New allegations have emerged against a Denver man suspected of posing as a firefighter in Larimer County last week. He is now a suspect in a similar and more serious case in Jefferson County.
Michael Maher bonded out of the Larimer County jail Tuesday morning. He returned home to find investigators from Jefferson County looking for evidence in a case of stolen firefighting equipment from the Lower North Fork fire in late March.
“In early April, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office took a report that firefighting equipment that had been assigned to an individual who reported himself to be a firefighter,” Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Ralph Gallegos said. “That equipment was never returned.
“We received a phone call from the Larimer County Sheriff’s office indicating that some of those items, in particular a radio had been located during a traffic stop with an individual they later identified as Michael Maher.”
Investigators reportedly found a chainsaw and other firefighting equipment at Maher’s Denver apartment.
“The theft report said approximately $2,400 worth of property was stolen,” Gallegos said.
Gallegos said Maher is a suspect in this case, and Jefferson County is just beginning its investigation. They are working with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office and the US Forest Service.
It will be up to the district attorney to decide what charges will be filed. They could include felony theft.
Gallegos said he does not know what may have motivated Maher to pose as a firefighter.
“We’d sure like to find out,” Gallegos said. “And hopefully with a level of cooperation with Mr. Maher and his attorney, we will get to the root of that and find out what he was thinking when these crimes occurred.”
Dan Recht, attorney for Maher issued a statement that said Maher had always dreamed of being a fireman, and was previously employed by the U.S. Forest Service. But he said Maher was not able to get a job as a firefighter.
“Late last week, Michael tried to help fight the High Park Fire without appropriate authority. He knows this was ill advised, foolish and regrettable,” Recht said. “However, he never meant to hurt anyone, loot anything, impede the firefighting effort in any way, or do anything but naively and immaturely attempt to help fight the High Park Fire.
“Upon contact with law enforcement, Michael was, and continues to be, forthcoming and cooperative,” Recht continued. “Despite media reports to the contrary, Michael was not in possession of fraudulent IDs, his firearm was legally owned and possessed and he has never been convicted of a felony. He is embarrassed by and prepared to take responsibility for his conduct. He regrets any offense taken by any of the firefighters who he idolizes and believes are heroes.”