LA arson suspect faces German probe
Los Angeles (CNN) — A German man due to appear in a Los Angeles court Wednesday in connection with one of the worst arson sprees in the city’s history is also under investigation for arson and fraud in his home country, a prosecution official in Germany said.
Harry Burkhart, 24, was arrested in Los Angeles early Monday after a string of 52 fires — mostly in parked cars — since Friday. He faces an arraignment hearing Wednesday morning.
No one was hurt in the fires, but property damage costs are likely to reach $3 million, authorities said.
On Wednesday, a German official said Burkhart was also under investigation in relation to a fire in Neukirchen, near Frankfurt.
A house owned by his family burned down in October 2011, said Annemarie Wied, the spokeswoman for the state prosecutor’s office in Marburg.
“The evidence points to arson,” Wied said, “because the complete inside of the house was devastated by the fire and two sources for the fire were discovered inside the building.”
“No one was inside the house when the fire department was called and a claim was made with the insurance company only a day later,” she added.
Wied said the investigation for arson and attempted insurance fraud was still in the early stages.
L.A. mayor: Arson suspect held, no bail
In Los Angeles, Burkhart faces one count of arson of an inhabited dwelling — but is likely to face additional charges, said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Authorities believe Burkhart may have been motivated to set the fires because of his mother’s arrest.
Police arrested his mother, 53-year-old Dorothee, during a traffic stop December 28. She is wanted in Germany on 19 counts of fraud, including an allegation that she defrauded the doctor who performed breast augmentation surgery on her in 2004.
The other fraud charges center on rent and security deposits for apartments in Frankfurt.
The day after her arrest, the first of the fires began.
On Tuesday, Dorothee Burkhart appeared before a U.S. magistrate judge and did not appear to know that her son had been arrested.
“What did you do to my son?” she yelled at the judge during the hearing. “My son is disappeared since yesterday. Perhaps the German Nazis know of our address.”
The mother left Germany in October for California, where she lived with Burkhart in a Hollywood apartment, authorities said.
A Frankfurt court issued the international arrest warrant, said court spokesman Gunther Meilinger. The warrant is valid for the European Union and also in countries with bilateral agreements with Germany, including the United States, he said.
Wied said authorities have not determined whether Dorothee Burkhart could be involved in the German fire.
Investigators seized press clippings about arson attacks in Germany from the Burkhart’s apartment in California, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen, Chuck Conder, Alan Duke, Paul Vercammen, Mike Ahlers, Ashley Hayes, Lateef Mungin, and Irving Last contributed to this report.