Check forgery suspect locked in Wellington liquor store but escapes by climbing through ceiling

A persistent passer of bad checks who was trying to buy liquor in Wellington with forged checks was nearly captured Dec. 6 after the liquor store clerk locked him in the store.

Michael Labarbera, age 24, was attempting to purchase liquor at 7:15 p.m. at Bella’s Liquor at 7650 Fifth St. in Wellington, where he had previously tried to conduct a transaction with a bad check. After the earlier incident, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Schulz said the department instructed the liquor store clerk to leave the store and lock the door the next time Labarbera showed up. She did so on Dec. 6 and then alerted LCSO.

With the door locked from the outside, Labarbera proceeded to climb into the liquor store’s suspended ceiling and then made his way east into neighboring Bella’s Market grocery store where he then fell through the 9-foot ceiling. He managed to flee the scene uninjured before deputies arrived, but was apprehended later Schulz said.

For several weeks in November, Labarbera also tried to pass checks at a handful of Ace Hardware stores along the Front Range, including the Andersen Ace Hardware in Wellington. Store manager Ian Andersen said Labarbera tried to purchase a $525 pressure washer in late November after saying his electric pressure washer had been stolen.

“We don’t accept checks,” said Andersen. “He said he’d come back with cash — which he never did.”

Labarbera is being held in Larimer County Jail on a $5,000 bond and has been charged with multiple felonies including identity theft and forgery. He is also being held on a $3,500 bond for other offenses committed in Loveland on Dec. 6, including false reporting and obstruction.

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