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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 © 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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