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German man charged in Los Angeles arsons

Update at 8:15 p.m. ET: The arraignment for Harry Burkhart has been postponed to Jan. 24. His bail has been set at $2.85 million, and he has been ordered to surrender his passport, prosecutors said.

Original post: A German man has been charged with dozens of counts of arson in connection with a rash of fires set in Los Angeles over the New Year's weekend.

Harry Burkhart, 24, was scheduled to appear for arraignment later Wednesday in a Los Angeles court. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney yet.

"After reviewing the available evidence, we filed 28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure," said District Attorney Steve Cooley. "The current charges relate to arson fires at 13 locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.

"The complaint also alleges that the arson was caused by use of a device designed to accelerate the fire," he said. "If found true, the allegation could mean additional custody time for the defendant.

Burkhart is suspected of setting more than 50 arson blazes that caused an estimated $3 million in damage. Authorities said they believe he was angry over his mother's legal troubles and went on a nighttime rampage of burning parked cars a day after she appeared in court last week.

Burkhart was taken into custody after authorities received a tip from federal officials who recognized him in a security video that showed a pony-tailed 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.

Burkhart also is under investigation for a 2011 house fire in Germany, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Burkhart's mother Dorothee Burkhart said in court Tuesday that her son is mentally ill.

Court documents were unsealed Tuesday that revealed she is charged in Germany with 19 counts of fraud, including failing topay for a 2004 breast-augmentation surgery and pilfering securitydeposits from renters.

In a brief court appearance, she appeared perplexed, wondering aloud if her son had disappeared or was dead. At one point, she said, he is mentally ill and questioned whether Nazis knew where she and her son lived.

"What did you do to my son?" she asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Nagle.

"I'm not here to address anything related to your son," Nagle responded.

Frankfurt court spokesman Guenther Meilinger told the AP that Dorothee Burkhart will go on trial for the fraud charges once she is extradited back to Germany. "We expect and hope that the U.S. authorities will look into the request for extradition ... so that the proceedings against her can continue," he said.

Both mother and son are being held without bail.

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