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Accused L.A. arsonist suspected of burning family home in Germany

January 4, 2012 | 11:15 am

Harry Burkhart

Prosecutors in Germany said Wednesday that the man suspected of lighting more than 50 Los Angeles arson fires is suspected of torching a home owned by his family six days before he entered the United States.

Harry Burkhart is being investigated in the Oct. 14 fire in the German town of Schwalm-Eder-Kreis near Frankfurt, which destroyed a vacant house owned by the Burkhart family and put neighboring buildings at risk, German authorities told The Times. U.S. authorities said Burkhart entered the U.S. on Oct. 20 by flying into Las Vegas.

Burkhart's family later filed an insurance claim for the blaze, the German prosecutors said.

MAP: Southland arsons

Federal immigration officials said they believed Harry Burkhart was in the United States on a legal visa due to expire in two weeks.

But authorities could not find a visa file for his mother, Dorothee, with whom Burkhart lived and often traveled.

It was unclear how Dorothee Burkhart gained entry into the United States, said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.

PHOTOS: Southland arsons

A court document indicates that Dorothee Burkhart was in Frankfurt as recently as October before flying to Las Vegas and accompanying her son to the German consulate in Los Angeles to renew his passport.

But immigration officials said Tuesday the court document is incorrect and that the last time she entered the country was in 2007.

Burkhart is accused of setting more than 50 fires in and around the Hollywood area. He was booked on suspicion of arson and was expected to face charges Wednesday.

Los Angeles police say they found fire-starting material in his minivan when he was arrested Monday.


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-- Efrem Gebreab in Germany, Richard Winton and Carol J. Williams

Photo: Harry Burkhart being arrested Monday. Credit: KTLA