A Los Angeles man who may have served time in jail for setting fire to restaurants and bars in Japan while stationed there as a U.S. Marine is suspected in a spree of arson attacks in California, authorities said on Tuesday.
Kurt Billie, 34, was arrested in the San Fernando Valley suburb after investigators saw him set fire to a mobile home before dawn on Tuesday, Los Angeles police spokesman Richard French said.
Investigators had been conducting surveillance in the area following a string of about 20 arson attacks there since July 17, police said.
Billie was booked for arson in connection with the mobile home fire, which destroyed the vehicle, and he was being held on $250,000 bail, Chief Michael Greenup of the Los Angeles Fire Department's arson unit said.
Investigators were seeking to connect Billie to the roughly 20 other arson attacks that occurred in the area in recent weeks, and he could be charged within a day for those crimes, Greenup said.
Those fires burned cars, motor homes and carports, but resulted in no injuries, he said.
Investigators were checking military records to determine whether Billie was the same man who in 2001 was convicted of setting fire to restaurants and bars in Japan while stationed in Okinawa, Greenup said.
The man convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for those crimes matched Billie's name and age. The case drew international attention and sparked anger in Japan.