BERLIN – The 24-year-old man suspected in a string of Los Angeles arson attacks is also under investigation in his homeland for a 2011 house fire, German prosecutors said Wednesday.
Harry Burkhart is being investigated in connection with an Oct. 14 house fire in the Marburg area north of Frankfurt, Marburg prosecutors’ spokeswoman Annemarie Wied told The Associated Press.
She said that the fire at the house, which belonged to the Burkhart family, has been ruled an arson.
Burkhart did not live in the area, she said, but his name surfaced as a suspect after he filed an insurance claim shortly after the fire.
“When one files an insurance claim on a house the same day it burns down it raises eyebrows,” she said.
Burkhart, whom Wied identified only as “Harry B.” in keeping with German privacy laws, has not yet been questioned in the case and no arrest warrant has been issued for him. She said she did not know how long ago he had been identified as a suspect in the arson investigation.
Burkhart was in Los Angeles by Oct. 26, 2011 – 12 days after the Marburg area fire – according to U.S. court papers, which say that he went with his mother on that day to the German consulate to renew his passport.
Burkhart is accused of more than 50 arson attacks over New Year’s weekend in Los Angeles that caused $3 million in damage.
Burkhart’s mother, Dorothee Burkhart, is charged in their native Germany with 19 counts of fraud, including failing to pay for a 2004 breast augmentation surgery and pilfering security deposits from renters.
Authorities in the U.S. believe Burkhart, angry over his mother’s legal troubles, went on a nighttime rampage of burning parked cars a day after she made an initial court appearance last week.
Both mother and son are being held without bail.
Frankfurt court spokesman Guenther Meilinger told the AP that Dorothee Burkhart will go on trial for the fraud charges once she is extradited back to Germany.
“We expect and hope that the U.S. authorities will look into the request for extradition… so that the proceedings against her can continue,” he said.
Harry Burkhart was taken into custody after authorities received a tip from federal officials who recognized him in a security video that showed a ponytailed man emerging from a garage where a car was set ablaze.