Federal prosecutors in the United States on Friday charged a 23-year-old former convict with making false statements after he claimed to be Illinois teen Timmothy Pitzen, who went missing in 2011 after his mother committed suicide, a US attorney said.
Brian Michael Rini was charged with lying to federal agents after he appeared on Wednesday in Newport, Kentucky, outside Cincinnati and claimed he was 14-year-old Pitzen.
Rini was found “wandering the street and looking confused and in need of assistance”, according to the six-page affidavit from FBI agent Mary Braun.
After identifying himself as Pitzen, Rini complained of abdominal pain and was taken to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Emergency Room, the affidavit said.
He told federal agents he had escaped from an eight-year ordeal at the hands of sex traffickers. Pitzen was last seen when he was 6 years old.
Rini refused to be fingerprinted Wednesday and Thursday but agreed to a DNA test which on Thursday identified him as Rini, according to Braun.
Even after Rini was advised of his rights and warned against making false statements, he continued to insist he was Pitzen and that he had escaped from a hotel where he’d been forced to have sex with men against his will, the affidavit said.
Rini finally acknowledged his identity after being confronted with the DNA results, said he had watched a story about Pitzen on ABC’s 20/20 news programme, and had wanted to get away from his family, according to Braun.
“Law enforcement confronted him with the DNA results, and at that point the person immediately stated that he was not Timmothy Pitzen, and of course law enforcement knew by virtue of the DNA analysis that he was in fact Brian Rini,” said US Attorney Benjamin Glassman during a briefing with reporters.
Rini appeared in federal court on Friday morning and is being held without bail until his detention hearing on Tuesday. He faces up to eight years in prison if found guilty, Glassman said.
Rini’s lawyer, Karen Savir, did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the charges against her client.
Made similar claims before
Rini had twice before claimed to be a child sex trafficking victim, according to federal prosecutors. He was released from Ohio’s Belmont Correctional Institution on March 7 where he had been serving 14 months for burglary and vandalism, according to public records.
“False reports like this can be painful to the families of missing children and also divert law enforcement resources in order to investigate these untruthful claims,” said Herb Stapleton, acting special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Cincinnati.
Pitzen was last seen in May 2011 with his mother, who pulled him out of school in Aurora, Illinois, a far-west suburb of Chicago, took him on a trip to a zoo and a water park, and then committed suicide in a motel room, leaving behind a cryptic note on her son’s whereabouts.
“Tim is somewhere safe with people who love him and will care for him,” she wrote in the note, according to reports by ABC7 Chicago. “You will never find him.”
In Pitzen’s hometown of Aurora, Illinois, police sergeant Bill Rowley said that over the years his department has received thousands of tips about the boy, including false sightings.
|This image released on April 4, 2019, by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, shows Timmothy Pitzen (L) and an ‘Age Progression’ image of Pitzen at 13 [Handout/National Center for Missing & Exploited Children/AFP] [Daylife]|
“We’re always worried about copycats, especially something that has a big national attention like this,” Rowley said.
Pitzen’s family members said they were heartbroken at the latest twist.
“It’s devastating. It’s like reliving that day all over again, and Timmothy’s father is devastated once again,” said his aunt Kara Jacobs.
The boy’s grandmother Alana Anderson said, “It’s been awful. We’ve been on tenterhooks, hopeful and frightened. It’s just been exhausting.”
She added, “I feel so sorry for the young man who’s obviously had a horrible time and felt the need to say he was somebody else.”