The mother of a man suspected of setting dozens of arson fires over New Year's weekend is wanted in Germany on 19 counts of fraud, including charges that she failed to pay for breast-augmentation surgery and bilked apartment renters out of security deposits, according to Los Angeles federal court papers unsealed Tuesday.
Dorothee Burkhart, the mother of arson suspect Harry Burkhart, appeared in federal court for a detention hearing, but the proceeding was delayed until Friday to give her time to hire an attorney.
According to various reports, her arrest last week may have led to the recent arson spree. Harry Burkhart was allegedly distressed over his mother's arrest, and he launched into a tirade during a court hearing last week, a police official told the Los Angeles Times.
Harry Burkhart, 24, a German national living in Hollywood, was being held without bail in downtown Los Angeles on suspicion of arson of an inhabited dwelling and is tentatively scheduled to make a court appearance in Van Nuys sometime Wednesday.
Dorothee Burkhart, meanwhile, remains jailed pending extradition to Germany to face the fraud charges.
In court Tuesday, the woman asked loudly for her son several times, repeating in heavily accented English, "Where is my son? What did you do to my son?"
At one point, the distraught woman, who is in her early 50s, proclaimed something about "German Nazis" and said of her son, "He is mentally ill" and has "disappeared."
According to the Vancouver Sun, Harry Burkhart lived in Canada as recently as 2010 and was diagnosed with autism by a medical doctor there.
A warrant for Dorothee Burkhart's arrest was issued in Germany in 2007, according to court papers.
She is accused of subletting apartments that she did not own, failing to pay rent and security deposits on other locations, and defrauding a Frankfurt cosmetic surgeon out of the equivalent of about $10,000 for breast augmentation surgery she never paid for, according to a provisional arrest warrant.
Harry Burkhart was arrested by a reserve Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue shortly after 3 a.m. Monday.
The minivan Burkhart was driving matched a description released by the task force investigating the fires that began early Thursday, and reserve Deputy Shervin Lalezary, a real estate attorney in Beverly Hills, recognized the suspect as the burly man with a ponytail seen on security video taken at the scene of some of the fires, authorities said.
According to the task force, there were arson fires beginning early Thursday at 53 locations, mostly in Hollywood and West Hollywood but also in North Hollywood, Burbank and Sunland.
There were 11 new fires between midnight Sunday and the time the suspect was arrested, Los Angeles fire Capt. Jaime Moore said. The fires stopped following Burkhart's arrest.
"Our long, four-day nightmare is over," county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told reporters Monday.
In many instances, fires started in carports raced to adjoining apartment buildings. The property damage resulting from the fires has been estimated at $3 million. One firefighter and a civilian suffered relatively minor injuries.
"I hate America," Burkhart said as he was being arrested, ABC News reported.
The task force assembled to investigate the carport fires comprises the Los Angeles County fire and sheriff's departments, the Los Angeles fire and police departments, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Patch's Complete Coverage of the Recent Arson Fires: