A fraud investigation involving the mother of 24-year-old arson suspect Harry Burkhart provided arson investigators with a break in the case of more than 50 fires in Hollywood, West Hollywood, San Fernando Valley and other areas.
A State Department official, who spoke with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said authorities working on the fraud case involving Dorothee Burkhart recognized a man seen walking in a surveillance video released Sunday night in connection with the arson cases. The video shows a man matching Harry Burkhart's description emerging from an underground parking structure in Hollywood.
Federal authorities notified LA authorities, and Harry Burkhart was arrested during a traffic stop early Monday.
During her brief court appearance Tuesday, Dorothee Burkhart asked about her son.
"Where is my son? What did you do to my son?'' she asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle.
Dorothee Burkhart was arrested Dec. 28 by deputy U.S. Marshals and LA police on a provisional arrest warrant requested by German authorities. Such warrants are issued when there are outstanding criminal charges pending against someone who has left a country.
The criminal complaint states that Dorothee Burkhart allegedly failed to pay a Frankfurt clinic for breast augmentation surgery. She also is accused of bilking renters out of money by failing to return security deposits for apartments.
A listing under "Los Angeles Body Rubs" on the website AdultSearch.com includes a picture of Dorothee Burkhart (embedded, below).
"Through the massage, you'll begin to experience pleasure like you never thought possible," the website listing states. The domain name for HollywoodTantraMassage.com also is registered to Dorothee Burkhart, of Los Angeles, but her name is not mentioned on the website. The site states that the service is not prostitution.
Local investigators did not cite a motive for the 50-some fires that were reported since late last week. When asked at a news conference about reports that an immigration problem with Burhkart's mother may have been a factor, authorities declined to comment.
Burkhart is expected to make his first court apperance Wednesday.
"An arrest is not a prosecution, and a prosecution is not a conviction -- we have a long way to go in this investigation," said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
Fires similar to those set during the weekend -- vehicles fires that spread to carports in Hollywood, West Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley and other areas -- have not been reported since Burkhart's arrest.
Dorothee Burkhart is due back in court Friday afternoon for an extradition hearing.