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Strange Brew in L.A.: Massage Parlors, German Nazis, Arson, Chechnyan Refugees

COMMENT: A case that raises more questions than it answers continues to unfold in Los Angeles.  A German citizen of Chechnyan extraction was arrested for setting numerous fires in the L.A. area.

He allegedly performed the acts to protest his mother’s impending extradition to Germany. Following the arrest, his mother had some interesting things to say. (His mother appears to have been involved in the sex business and there may have been other criminal money-making enterprises in which both engaged.)

Dorothee Burkhart expressed fears that German Nazis may have been after her son and her conviction that Germany was secretly run by Nazis operating out of public view, not an altogether reasonable view.

Among the considerations to be weighed in this puzzling story:

  • After their flight from Chechnya, did the Burkharts become involved with neo-Nazi elements?
  • Was there any relationship between some of the organized vice activities Dorothee Burkhart engaged in and Nazi elements, some of which draw income from such pursuits?
  • Is Harry Burkhart actually suffering from psychological disorder or is this media misdirection to cover-up a deeper, more significant story?
  • Might the Burkharts’ activities be connected to an organized crime milieu, perhaps one based in Europe?
  • Is there any significance to the fact that the tip leading to Harry Burkhart’s arrest came from the State Department?
  • Was this article edited to obscure information about Ms. Burkhart’s Nazi allegations?

“Arson Suspect Took a Twisted Path to Los Angeles” by Joel Rubin and Kim Murphy; The Los Angeles Times; 1/7/2011.

EXCERPT: . . . Indeed, as investigators have begun to unravel the Burkharts’ tightly intertwined lives, they have happened upon a story perhaps more incredible than the fires themselves. It’s a tale of massage parlors, small-time con games, neo-Nazi conspiracies, and investigations into mysterious fires set in three countries.

With much of the details coming from Dorothee and Harry themselves — in volumes of convoluted testimony filed in a failed attempt to gain political asylum in Canada — it is harder yet to know where truth blurs into fiction. . . .


7 comments for “Strange Brew in L.A.: Massage Parlors, German Nazis, Arson, Chechnyan Refugees”

  1. .. and what better way to rob the nazi story of plausibility than have it come from the mouth of a ‘sex worker’ or her ‘mentally ill’ son?

    Posted by Dwight | January 11, 2012, 1:16 pm
  2. Here’s a series of articles that provide more questions than answers.

    First, here’s an article that establishes that Harry Burkhart was in the US legally on a non-immigrant travel visa but his mother Dorothee’s status wasn’t legal when she was arrested on a German warrant on December 28th, 2011 in LA (the fires started later that evening). The German arrest warrant was originally issued on Sept, 24th, 2007:

    Arson suspect’s mother was in U.S. illegally when arrested
    January 3, 2012 | 5:34 pm

    The mother of suspected arsonist Harry Burkhart was illegally in the U.S. when she was arrested last week on a criminal warrant issued by German authorities, officials said.

    Dorothee Burkhart, who was living in Los Angeles at the time of her arrest, currently has “no lawful immigration status,” according to Department of Homeland Security records. Burkhart last entered the U.S. lawfully in January 2007 and departed the country four months later, records show.

    Given Burkhart’s illegal status, authorities have lodged an immigration detainer against her, authorities said. Her last known local address was an apartment complex on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

    Extradition proceedings for Burkhart were pushed back to later this week to allow her time to retain her own attorney, officials said.

    She was arrested Thursday on a criminal warrant issued by German authorities. A day later, a series of more than 50 fires started. Her son, Harry Burkhart, was arrested Monday and booked on arson charges.

    At the time of his arrest, Harry Burkhart was in the country lawfully on a non-immigrant visa, which expires Jan. 18. An immigration detainer also has been placed against him, indicating immigration officials will seek to take him into custody upon his release by local authorities to pursue any follow-up enforcement action.

    The seven-page complaint against Dorothee Burkhart filed by Assistant U.S. Atty. Cathy Ostiller said that the government was “informed through diplomatic channels” that she is charged in state court in Frankfurt with “19 counts of fraud committed on a commercial basis and as a member of a gang.”
    The complaint details about $45,000 worth of alleged embezzlement of renters and landlords with whom she did business between 2000 and 2006. The largest sum listed in the complaint was about $10,000.

    Burkhart allegedly owed a Frankfurt plastic surgeon who performed a breast augmentation operation on her in 2004 after she provided falsified records of an advance payment.

    It was unclear from the complaint why Burkhart became such a high-priority target in an international dragnet. The warrant for her arrest was issued Sept. 24, 2007, by Judge Hans-Ulrich Biernath in a Frankfurt court. The offenses for which she was sought are covered by the extradition treaty between Germany and the United States, Ostiller said.

    Citing Interpol as well as German diplomatic authority, the complaint described Burkhart as a “German national.” But she spoke German as haltingly as she spoke English. She had first been provided with a Russian-language interpreter for the initial deportation hearing last week, which Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle referred to as having been of little assistance.

    According to this article, at some point Harry returned to Germany to burn down the family home on October 14th, 2011. He returned to the US twelve days later and Dorothee went with him to the German consulate to renew his passport. Contradicting some articles below, it also says there is reported no active investigation of Harry in Germany regarding the presumed arson of their family home according to German Authorities:

    January 6, 2012 4:01 AM
    Trouble followed German mother, son in 3 countries

    (AP) LOS ANGELES — Wherever Dorothee and Harry Burkhart went, trouble followed the mother-and-son duo.

    Arsons in Los Angeles, Germany and possibly Canada. A daring escape through a German hospital window. A claim that fascists were trying to kill them. Skipping out on a bill for a breast augmentation surgery.

    The younger Burkhart’s name surfaced as a suspect in the German arson case after he filed an insurance claim shortly after the fire, Marburg prosecutors’ spokeswoman Annemarie Wied said.

    A search of his Hollywood apartment following his arrest turned up news articles about the Los Angeles fires along with some car fires in Frankfurt last September. German authorities said there was no active investigation of Burkhart in Frankfurt.

    Twelve days after the German house fire, Burkhart was in Los Angeles, according to court documents, visiting the German consulate with his mother to try to renew his passport. His nonimmigrant visa is set to expire Jan. 18, authorities said. His mother last entered the country lawfully in January 2007, and she left four months later.

    Now, according to this article Burkhart is a suspect in the German arson case. The article states “the case is still open” although its unclear if that’s referring to the US or German investigation. In addition, it appears the Dorothee was with Harry in Frankfurt, Germany. According to a State Department spokesperson, it is unclear how Dorothee was able to gain entry to the US, but travel papers indicate that she return from Frankfurt with Harry to Las Vegas. Other immigration officials say those documents are mistaken and her last entry into the US was in January 2007:

    L.A. arson suspect Harry Burkhart probed in German fire
    January 4, 2012 | 8:37 am

    As authorities probe more than 50 fires over the last week, they are also looking for any links between the suspect arrested Monday and any similar arson cases in Germany.

    The suspect, Harry Burkhart, is a German national. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has reported to local officials that Burkhart is the subject of at least one arson investigation in Germany, law enforcement sources told The Times. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the case is still open.

    The Associated Press reported that Burkhart, who is from Frankfurt, is a suspect in a fire in the city’s Marburg district in October that burned a home owned by his family. Burkhart filed an insurance claim on the home, German prosecutors told the AP.

    Burkhart lived with his mother, Dorothee, and often traveled with her. It’s unclear when he was last in Germany.

    Victoria Nuland, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, said it was also unclear how the Burkharts had gained entry to the United States. Federal immigration officials said they believed Harry Burkhart was in the United States with a legal visa due to expire in two weeks. But authorities could not find a visa file for Dorothee Burkhart.

    A court document indicates that Dorothee Burkhart was in Frankfurt as recently as October before flying into Las Vegas and accompanying her son to the German Consulate in Los Angeles to renew his passport. But immigration officials said Tuesday that the court document is incorrect and that the last time she entered the country was in 2007.

    And according to this article, the two arrived in Las Vegas, six days after the Frankfurt fire(presumably October 20th, 2011). Harry is also now being investigated in connection with a series of suspicious fires in Vancouver. In addition, German prosecutors have, indeed, confirmed that Harry is indeed under investigation there for arson (note that this article and the above article that stated that there’s no active German investigation were both published on January 6th, so there is some conflicting reporting on that point from the same day):

    Probe of Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart widens to Canada
    Authorities in Vancouver, where the suspect lived with his mother before moving to L.A., are looking into whether he was involved in a series of suspicious fires there.

    By Kim Murphy, Richard Winton and Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times

    January 6, 2012
    Reporting from Vancouver, Canada, and Los Angeles — The investigation of Hollywood arson suspect Harry Burkhart widened Thursday to include a probe by Canadian authorities into whether he was involved in a series of suspicious fires in Vancouver.

    Burkhart, who has been charged with 37 felony counts related to the New Year’s weekend arson rampage, lived in Vancouver with his mother before moving to the Los Angeles area.

    Vancouver Police Department spokesman Lindsey Houghton said officials “have begun to liaise with the LAPD” but stressed that detectives have not connected Burkhart to any specific fires in that city.

    Several Canadian news outlets reported that police were looking into any possible connection between Burkhart and at least 12 suspicious property arsons last year in Vancouver that remain unsolved. It’s unclear, however, whether Burkhart was in the city at the times those fires occurred.

    News of the probe comes a day after German prosecutors confirmed Burkhart, 24, was under investigation on suspicion of arson and insurance fraud in an Oct. 14, 2011, fire that caused major damage to a half-timbered duplex in the mountainous region near Marburg in central Germany. U.S. immigration officials have confirmed that Burkhart flew from Frankfurt to Las Vegas six days after the fire.

    Here’s an article that establishes that German authorities “quickly” determined that Harry was a suspect in the fire in Germany, and that US immigration officials opened up their case file on Harry shortly after their return from Germany(presumably in relation to Harry’s application for a visa renewal, although with an arson case opening in Germany, it’s unclear if that was a factor). It also provides some more info on Dorothee’s daring escape from German custody in 2007 and mentions that the two arrived in LA from Canada in “late 2010” (following the refusal of their asylum request by Canada). They blended into the West Hollywood ethnic Russian community and Dorothee began working in the illegal sex trade:

    Tracing B.C. arson suspect’s path from Germany to Vancouver to L.A.

    By Joel Rubin and Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times January 6, 2012

    LOS ANGELES — Once Dorothee Burkhart had squeezed through a window and escaped, only two things mattered: finding Harry and getting out of Germany.

    It was September 2007 in Frankfurt. Four months earlier, police had arrested Burkhart in a string of thefts and sent her to a woman’s prison to await trial. Separated from Harry, her 19-year-old son who suffered from a slew of mental disabilities, she had grown increasingly anxious. Without her, Harry was alone and unprotected in a city that she believed was filled with people set on hurting them.

    So, when Burkhart developed chest pains in prison, she didn’t resist being brought to a nearby hospital, she later told authorities in an account of the escape. When left alone and uncuffed in a bathroom, Burkhart squeezed through a tiny window and ran to a nearby train station. Once safely away, she called Harry and told him to come with their passports and cash. They drove to Amsterdam and boarded a plane, landing 5,000 miles away in Vancouver.

    During the several years it took for the process to run its course, Dorothee and Harry carved out an existence in Vancouver marked by frequent moves from one apartment to another and claims by Dorothee that Canadian immigration officials were plotting against her and her son. Whatever money they had brought from Germany was gone in a few months. They got themselves onto government rolls, according to Lorne Epp, head of a Mennonite organization that operates a well-kept low-income apartment building in which Burkhart and her son occupied two studio units for six months in 2009.

    Living in his own apartment, even one that was next door to his mother, seemed too much for Harry. He would place a mattress against the door and sleep on it to keep intruders out, according to court records. A doctor diagnosed him as being on the autism spectrum, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and a sleep disorder, the records show. The same doctor concluded Dorothee was battling post-traumatic stress as well, along with depression and anxiety.

    Connecting with the Mennonite community in Vancouver offered a rare sense of refuge for the pair. Some members of the community even signed a letter urging authorities to grant the Burkharts’ refugee petition. Ingrid Schultz, pastor at First United Mennonite Church in Vancouver, said Harry had a “child-like quality about him” and never seemed happier than when he was in the city’s large Stanley Park “just spending time with the ducks.”

    It appears that Dorothee and Harry arrived in Los Angeles in late 2010, after they had exhausted their appeals for immigrant status in Vancouver. It was not their first time in the city. They had come in 2007 shortly before Dorothee was arrested in Germany. During the Burkharts’ visit, police responded to a domestic abuse call and investigated allegations that Harry had tried to attack his mother with scissors. No charges were filed.

    After the Burkharts arrived in 2010, they disappeared into the large Russian immigrant community in West Hollywood. They rented an apartment for a few months and then moved to side-by-side rooms above a hair salon on Sunset Boulevard, where they lived until their arrests.

    Officials believe Dorothee tapped into the city’s illicit sex trade for work, running a sexual-massage parlor out of her room, according to Los Angeles law enforcement sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing. A website listing Dorothee Burkhart as administrator says that a woman named “Annabelle” provides “soul-relaxation massage.” The website lists the address the Burkharts shared on Sunset Boulevard.

    At some point in 2011, Harry returned to Frankfurt. On Oct. 14, a fire ignited in a house the family owned in the mountains about an hour’s drive north of the city. Investigators quickly determined the fire had been set intentionally and identified Harry as the prime suspect after he submitted an insurance claim in Germany days after.

    Harry came back to Los Angeles, where Dorothee took him to the German Consulate to renew his passport. Around that time, federal agents began appearing in their neighborhood, showing photos and asking people for information about Dorothee.
    © Copyright (c) McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

    And now here’s a piece that gives us a sense of how much info the pair gave to Canadian officials regarding their Sept. 2007 escape from Germany to Canada:

    Accused L.A. arsonist begged court to stay in Canada
    sunny dhillon AND campbell clark
    VANCOUVER AND OTTAWA— From Thursday’s Globe and Mail
    Published Wednesday, Jan. 04, 2012 9:09PM EST
    Last updated Thursday, Jan. 05, 2012 5:54AM ES

    He hasn’t spoken publicly since he was charged with setting a rash of Los Angeles fires, but former Vancouver resident Harry Burkhart begged Canada’s Federal Court two years ago to let him and mother Dorothee stay in this country.

    He said he feared they’d be killed if sent back to Germany and she was, he pleaded, the only person he could count on.

    Mr. Burkhart’s plea fell on deaf ears. Just as the Immigration and Refugee Board had done earlier that year, the Federal Court ruled against him and his mother.

    The Burkharts claimed they faced persecution from fascist groups in Germany, the country from which they arrived in Canada. It was in Germany that Ms. Burkhart also faced fraud charges dating back to 2000, both for keeping security deposits from former tenants and for skipping out on the bill for breast-augmentation surgery.

    Those charges finally caught up with Ms. Burkhart last week in California, resulting in her arrest. U.S. authorities allege her son – left without the one person he relied on – then went on an arson rampage, setting more than 50 fires and leaving about $3-million in damage.

    Federal Court in Canada and IRB documents tell a disjointed story, but one in which the mother appears to be firmly in control of her son’s life – to the point that she testified in his place in front of the IRB about his woes. She said he was incapable of recounting his own life story.

    Ms. Burkhart, 53, told the refugee board she and her son were born in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. They eventually settled in Germany and became citizens but Ms. Burkhart told the IRB in 2009 the two were continually harassed because they spoke with Russian accents and because her son suffered from mental disabilities.

    “We are persecuted because of our origin, nationality, disability of my son from the Nazis and their sympathizers,” Ms. Burkhart said.

    Ms. Burkhart initially told Canadian officials she was arrested in Germany for committing deceit and writing threatening letters to neighbours. She later denied that was the case and said she was taken into custody for not carrying identity documents.

    “When the claimant ultimately escaped lawful custody [to which she also testified], she contacted her son and instructed him to meet her with their identity documents, including their passports and money,” the IRB wrote in its judgment. “The principal claimant’s son followed her instruction successfully, which allowed both claimants to leave Germany for Canada where they made refugee claims.”

    Those refugee claims were denied. Government lawyers argued against Ms. Burkhart because of her charges abroad.

    No further details on how Ms. Burkhart “escaped lawful custody” were provided in the court documents.

    So here’s a summary of some facts that we’ve learned so far:
    1. Dorothee and Harry arrive in LA in “late 2010”.
    2. At some point, the two return to the Frankurt, Germany area in October 2011.
    3. Harry is suspected of burning down the family home on October 14th.
    4. Harry and Dorothee returned to Las Vegas six days later, although immigration officials contest whether Dorothee actually left and re-entered the US.
    5. The two were at the German consulate in LA twelve days after the fire to start renewing Harry’s visa.
    6. Dorothee was living in the US illegally and had a German arrest warrant out for her since September 24th, 2007.
    7. It was unclear why Dorothee became such a high-profile international dragnet target that led up to her arrest in late December 2011 from the 2007 German arrest warrant.
    8. Dorothee was arrested on December 28th, with the first suspicious fires taking place on the 29th (although some reports indicate the first suspicious fires were on the evening of Dorothee’s arrest).

    And here’s where things get really weird:
    First, here’s article from today that talks about Harry leaving a fire-starting device in the Hallway of the German consulate in LA when he visited his mother there following her arrest. The article also notes that Harry is charged with 13 of the 51 fires and is suspected of starting the LA arson spree on December 30, while noting that there were several suspicious fires started in his neighborhood the night before. The first fire on the 29th was right next to the pair’s apartment, with a few more fires later started nearby. Authorities don’t suspect Harry was involved with those, or at least not all of them. Instead, it’s suspected that 22 yr-old Samuel Arrington caused at least some of those fires near the Burkhart’s apartment on the 29th:

    Arson suspect left clue at German Consulate
    An image taken by a guard in L.A. shows a fire-starting device left on the floor by Harry Burkhart, officials say.

    By Richard Winton, Andrew Blankstein and Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times

    January 11, 2012, 6:19 p.m.
    Hours after a series of arson fires erupted across Los Angeles last month, Harry Burkhart walked into the German Consulate looking for help in freeing his mother from a Los Angeles jail where she was being held on a German criminal warrant.

    As he walked down a hallway of the building on Wilshire Boulevard, he placed a fire-starting device on the floor. A security guard spotted the object. He took a closer look, and decided to snap a photograph. That photo is now considered key evidence linking the 24-year-old German national to a four-day arson rampage that kept parts of Los Angeles on edge, according to law enforcement sources who described the scene at the consulate.

    Since Burkhart’s arrest last week, a team of detectives has been tracing his steps, going to more than 50 fire scenes in search of patterns and evidence.

    The first night of fires was concentrated in areas close to where Burkhart and his mother had lived in the Hollywood and West Hollywood areas. Over the next three nights, the arson fires spread into the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood Hills.

    The photo of the device found at the consulate is similar to those that detectives have collected as part of the arson probe, one source close to the investigation said.

    It is unclear why Burkhart placed the device in the hallway and why he later retrieved it.

    Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jamie Moore said the arson task force is still gathering evidence and interviewing witnesses but declined to provide specific details about what the team has found.

    Burkhart has been charged in connection with 13 of the 51 fires. Prosecutors say he was motivated by his hatred of America after federal officials jailed his mother.

    One source said the evidence detectives have gathered includes Burkhart’s DNA , which was found at one of the fire scenes. Several witnesses have also identified Burkhart as being near the scene of several fires, the source said.

    <bAuthorities allege that Burkhart began his rampage Dec. 30.

    But there were several fires in his neighborhood the night before.

    One of those fires was set in a dumpster at an apartment building near the one where Burkhart and his mother once lived on Poinsettia Place. Brad Carter once lived next to them and remembered Burkhart as a quiet man who kept to himself.

    Within minutes of the fire on Dec. 29, two other fires were set a few blocks away.

    Authorities said at least some of those Dec. 29 fires were set by 22-year-old Sunland resident Samuel Arrington.

    Officials have said they don’t believe Burkhart was responsible given the evidence, which they declined to specify. Arrington has pleaded not guilty to arson charges.

    And here’s a December 29th, 2011 article with more on the mysterious Samuel Arrington that is rarely mentioned in this story. It appears an eye-witness saw Arrington explicitely attempt to set two fuel tanks on fire, detained him, and flagged down police:

    Man suspected of setting three fires in Hollywood
    Authorities say Samuel Arrington, 22, of Sunland torched a vehicle and set trash ablaze along a five-block stretch of Sunset Boulevard.

    December 29, 2011|By Angel Jennings, Los Angeles Times

    An arson suspect was arrested in Hollywood after allegedly setting three fires that caused significant property damage early Thursday morning.

    Authorities say Samuel Arrington, 22, of Sunland torched a vehicle and set trash ablaze along a five-block stretch of Sunset Boulevard.

    The first blaze, in a dumpster at Poinsettia Place and Sunset Boulevard, broke out at 1:12 a.m.

    Around the same time, firefighters received a call about a car ablaze in the carport of an apartment building at 1434 N. Fuller Ave. Firefighters rescued the 20 occupants of the 10-unit complex. A 73-year-old male was taken to a hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

    Four vehicles were destroyed in the front of the building. As the flames rose from the carport to the building itself, at least two units were damaged.

    The suspect then allegedly set a trash can on fire at Sycamore Avenue and Sunset Boulevard before a witness apprehended him.

    The witness, Pedro Mejia, was cleaning the sidewalk with a pressure washer. “I saw him turn the trash can on fire,” Mejia told KTLA News. “After that, he walked toward my equipment and tried to set it on fire.” He said the suspect attempted to ignite his washer’s two fuel tanks, containing 30 gallons of diesel.

    Mejia detained Arrington and flagged down passing police.

    And then theres…

    Two suspects charged over LA arson spree

    (AFP) – Jan 2, 2012

    LOS ANGELES — Two men have been charged over a spree of more than 50 arson attacks which kept Hollywood on edge over the New Year holiday, Los Angeles police said Monday, after a fourth night of fires.

    A new suspect, named as 55-year-old Alejandro Pineta, was arrested in the early hours, following the detention of a 22-year-old, identified as Samuel Arrington, shortly after the attacks started last week.

    The two men were both charged with arson and held in custody, Pineta in lieu of $50,000 bail and Arrington in lieu of $75,000, said Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) commander Michael Moriarty.

    In all the 53 deliberately-set fires in Hollywood and surrounding parts of Los Angeles caused more than $2 million in damage, added an LA Fire Department spokesman, Jaime Moore.

    LAPD chief Charlie Beck, speaking before Pineta was named as a second person charged, said: “I feel very good that we’ve got the right guy .. The suspect had the right stuff in his van, and we are very confident we found our man.”

    A suspect caught on camera after a blaze in a parking lot near Hollywood’s main tourist area was believed to be in his late 20s to early 30s, with a receding hairline and dark hair worn in a ponytail, police said.

    Amateur video caught the blaze in the basement of the Hollywood and Highland center, near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where tourists flock to see celebrity handprints and the Walk of Fame stars.

    And finally, here’s another article that mentions the mystery pair’s arrest. The article is a reminder of how the arrest announcement of Harry Burkhart and Arrington/Pineta overlapped, leading to much confusion. It also appears that Arrington/Pineta are not suspected of involvement in the car fires that Burkhart is suspected of starting, but they were suspected of the fires next to Burkart’s apartment at Poinsetta Place on Sunset Blvd. At least that was the official line when this angle of the story broke. There has been pretty sparse coverage the Arington/Pineta arrests since the initial reports.

    Los Angeles police say they caught arson spree suspect who terrorized neighborhoods

    By Barbara Jones and Susan Abram

    Los Angeles Daily News
    Posted: 01/02/2012 09:14:30 PM PST
    Updated: 01/03/2012 05:45:55 AM PST

    A suspect was arrested early Monday in a four-day arson spree across Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley that caused $2 million in damage and sparked widespread fear among residents, officials said.

    At a noontime press conference at a downtown fire station, fire Capt. Jaime Moore said the man fit the description of a “person of interest” shown on surveillance video emerging from an underground parking garage off Hollywood Boulevard.

    The suspect was being booked on suspicion of four counts of arson, official said.

    Authorities said they would release the name of the 55-year-old suspect and other details of their investigation at a news conference set for 6 p.m.

    They refused to confirm a report by Fox11 News that the suspect is a German national upset about the pending deportation of his mother.

    The man was detained by a reserve deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department just after 3 a.m. Monday near Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in West Hollywood. The arrest capped a night in which firefighters responded to about a dozen vehicle fires, including seven in the San Fernando Valley.

    The man was driving a dark-colored Dodge van with Canadian license plates, which Moore said resembled a description by the Arson Task Force.

    Moore said investigators from the five-agency task force have combed through more than 100 clues and have mapped out the sequence of fires that occurred. He also said hundreds of interviews have been conducted and multiple search warrants have been served.

    The string of fires began Thursday night when a handful of blazes began in the Hollywood area. Two people were arrested in connection with those fires, Moore said.

    But investigators don’t believe those two men, age 22, and 55, were involved in what would become a string of fires set in parked cars. In several cases, flames jumped to carports and apartment units.

    The fire department responded to 17 car fires on Friday night. By Saturday morning, several cars in the San Fernando Valley, including North Hollywood and Sun Valley had burned. One car was torched in Burbank.

    Police said just before the suspect was detained, 11 additional blazes had been started.

    Authorities also said they had recently arrested two other arson suspects, but noted they are unrelated to the series of care fires.

    Samuel Arrington, 22, is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail, while Alejandro Pineta, 55, is in custody on $50,000 bail.

    The recent rash of fires is similar to those that occurred in July in North Hollywood. At least 21 fires sprung up within a 1.5-mile area around the Lankershim Boulevard corridor. Parked cars, motorhomes, piles of trash and garages were set ablaze over a three-week period.

    Police arrested Kurt K. Billie, a former Marine previously convicted of setting fire to bars and restaurants in Japan. He was charged with 21 counts of arson and is currently being held on $2 million bail. He’s expected back in court later this month. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

    Yeah, this is definitely a story to watch.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 11, 2012, 9:48 pm
  3. from Canada’s Chronicle Herald:
    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.

    “When they saw the security footage, they recognized him and they contacted the arson task force,” a State Department official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigations are ongoing.
    :end quote
    I’d venture that there’s nothing to this story but the histrionics of a seasoned con-woman grasping at straws, except for the oddities the reportage reveals. If some of the details are accurate, the flow of events seems senseless.
    Why were ‘federal officials’ who were already familiar with Harry Burkhart perusing security videos of the arson fires?
    Why was Burkhart allowed to retrieve the fire-starting device without arrest after it had been photographed by a security guard? Why was the device left in place during the interim?
    There’s a lot of smoke here.

    Posted by Dwight | January 12, 2012, 6:19 am
  4. @Dwight: I had a very similar take on this story. There’s nothing particularly compelling in their backgrounds that suggest the Burkharts are anything other than a troubled mother/son pair with a history of mental illness and petty crime. And yet there is just so much left unexplained in the emerging story. How was the pair able to fly in and out of Germany in October when Dorothee had an arrest warrant out for her issued in 2007?

    How was the eye-witness that saw Samuel Arrington start the fires able to detain Arrington and call the police? Was there any resistance? And why so little follow up with the Arrington angle when a story from just yesterday contains assertions that Burkhart didn’t start any fires until December 30th and it was Arrington that was responsible for at least some of the initial fires right next to the Burkhart’s LA apartment? Such a sequence of events isn’t impossible, but it’s hard not to be somewhat suspicious of the emerging storyline when the story has so many unexplained holes.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 13, 2012, 10:09 am
  5. Harry Burkhart is due to be arraigned today if they can get his drug dosage right. From CNN:

    Burkhart was present during a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

    During that hearing Burkhart appeared unable to stand on his own. Three deputies tried to steady him as he appeared to be leaning back with his eyes closed. Burkhart was wearing a special “suicide gown” designed to prevent him from harming himself, according to one of the deputies who escorted him.

    Posted by Dwight | January 24, 2012, 5:57 am
  6. “In 2007, German police finally caught up with Burkhart. While in prison, she would later tell Canadian authorities, she was tortured. “At the beginning, the prison guards came at night and took me from my cell to a basement. They would undress me and use electric shock on me. They demanded that I sign a confession to everything I was accused of,” according to a statement in the asylum file.”


    Posted by G | January 24, 2012, 3:01 pm

    “One day, she said, a man showed up at her home saying that he was coming for an “erotic massage” in response to an advertisement in a local paper. “I was shocked and asked to see the ad,” she wrote in her asylum claim. “I phoned the number, and a woman’s voice on an answering machine directed me to my address. These advertisements must have been placed by the fascists, as part of their campaign against me.”

    In May 2005, Burkhart said German police broke down her door and searched her home, and discovered neo-Nazi fliers containing threats to her neighbors. She told Canadian immigration authorities that she was taken to a police station where she was drugged, beaten up, and given electric-shock treatment.
    “They humiliated me, making me go on my hands and knees and bark like a dog before they would give me water,” she said. “They demanded that I acknowledge that I am crazy, and for that reason I had distributed statements against my neighbor. They told me I had to agree to undergo a psychological assessment.”


    Posted by G | January 24, 2012, 3:07 pm

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