As Los Angeles law enforcement authorities grapple with the recent spate of high-profile arson attacks, more details have emerged about the the chief suspect, and his mother. Harry Burkhart, 24, is reportedly a German national who was born in Chechnya, Los Angeles authorities said Wednesday. His mother, Dorothee Burkhart, is the subject of a German extradition request.
Dorothee Burkhart was due to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon in connection with the German extradition request, court documents show.
She was arrested on December 28th in LA on a German warrant, the Los Angeles Times's Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein reported Tuesday. Authorities suspect his mother's arrest may have prompted Harry Burkhart's alleged arson spree.
So why was she wanted in Germany anyhow?
The case has been under seal in Germany. But media reports have indicated Dorothee Burkhart is wanted on fraud related charges in Germany.
"The German government complaint backing the arrest warrant on Dorothee Burkhart says that 19 fraud charges were filed against her in 2007, stemming from a breast augmentation surgery for which she allegedly falsified verification of a nearly $10,000 down payment to a Frankfurt surgeon," the LA Times reported in a further dispatch Tuesday.
Dorothee Burkhart requested consular assistance from the German government at her hearing Tuesday, the German consulate was notified, a German diplomat said Wednesday.
Los Angeles officials have credited the State Department with information leading to Burkhart's arrest.
The State Department said Tuesday that a member of the State Department's diplomatic security team had provided the tip identifying the arson suspect to the LAPD. The State security official had apparently recognized Burkhart on a video that L.A. authorities had released showing a "person of interest" in the arson case.
"It was a member of Diplomatic Security who was working a separate case and saw this and then began cooperating," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told journalists at a press conference on Tuesday. "And then our cooperation, including information from the investigation that we were conducting, was helpful further on in the case. We shared a whole bunch of our information, which helped LAPD."
Meanwhile, a Vancouver doctor told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that she treated both Burkhart and his mother when they allegedly lived in the Canadian city from 2008-2010.
"The doctor, who does not want to be named, said Burkhart and his mother lived in Vancouver and were patients of hers between 2008 and 2010," the CBC reported. "Television news footage of the arrest shows Burkhart was driving a mini-van with British Columbia license plates."
Burkhart reportedly pleaded unsuccessfully with Canadian authorities two years ago to allow himself and his mother to stay in the country, the Globe and Mail reported.
"Me and my mother, we are among the most vulnerable in society," Mr. Burkhart wrote in a 2010 affidavit, the Globe and Mail reported. "I'm several disabled, we are alone, I have no father, no family members or friends, they could help us. We are here in Canada just to save our life. I ask you herewith, please help us, please look our case very serious. You decide about our life or dead. Please help us stay alive."
Harry Burkhart was charged Wednesday with 37 felony counts of arson, KPCC reported. His mother told the court Tuesday that she believes her son is mentally ill.
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