Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday honored two federal agents whose information about a man wanted in a series of Los Angeles-area arsons led to the break in a case that “terrorized” the city.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Luis Flores and U.S. State Department Special Agent Jonathan Lamb had been investigating a man who had fled Germany when a series of more than 50 arson fires broke out across Los Angeles beginning Dec. 30.
Criminal Complaint: Dorothee Burkhart Fraud Case
The officers contacted investigators in L.A. who were probing the string of arsons and identified the suspect as Harry Burkhart. The federal officers also gave arson task force investigators information about Burkhart’s vehicle and his residence.
“The city couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for your work in helping to identify the suspected arsonist and putting an end to fires that were, frankly, creating a terror in our community,” Villaraigosa said after a Thursday press conference.
Burkhart has been charged in the arsons that caused millions of dollars in property damage. He was being held on nearly $3 million bail, awaiting an arraignment hearing Jan. 24 to answer to the charges.
Burkhart, a 24-year-old German man, is believed to have used accelerant to light 52 fires that started on vehicles and spread to carports and nearby structures and spanned across Los Angeles.
Authorities say Burkhart became enraged at the U.S. government because his mother, Dorothee, faced deportation from the country after she allegedly failed to pay a Frankfurt, Germany, clinic for breast augmentation surgery and bilked renters out of their security deposits.
Investigators in the fraud case recognized the man seen in surveillance video that was released Sunday by investigators in the arson case. That tip from federal authorities led local authorities to Burkhart, who was arrested early Monday morning after a traffic stop initiated by a reserve sheriff's deputy at Sunset Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.
It was an outburst at a hearing in his mother's case -- she was arrested Dec. 28 by deputy U.S. Marshals and LA police on a provisional arrest warrant requested by German authorities -- that caught the attention of authorities. An officer who witnessed the court outburst reportedly recognized Burkhart in the surveillance video, which shows a man walking from an underground parking structures in Hollywood.
Burkhart also is under investigation in connection with a 2011 house fire in Germany, the Associated Press reported.
View Hollywood Area Arson Fires Map in a larger map