The man who surfaced in Kentucky claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen, a boy who went missing at the age of 6 in 2011, was charged Friday with making false statements to a federal agent, according to the FBI.
Brian Michael Rini, 23, told investigators in Kentucky on Wednesday that he was Pitzen and had run across an Ohio bridge after escaping two kidnappers. But DNA tests indicated that the man was not the boy who vanished eight years ago, officials said Thursday.
While Rini was posing as Pitzen, he told authorities, including those who identified themselves as FBI agents, that he had been sexually and physically abused for years while he was being held, said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Benjamin Glassman.
Rini complained of abdominal pain, and was brought to Cincinnati Children's Hospital. He didn't change his story even after the agents warned him that lying to federal agents is a violation of federal law.
The FBI discovered that Rini had allegedly portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim in two prior instances. His true identity was discovered in those cases after he was fingerprinted.
In this instance, Rini refused to be fingerprinted, but agreed to submit a DNA sample, Glassman said.
He maintained he was Pitzen until he was confronted by investigators with the DNA results that they had compared with DNA of Pitzen's relatives.
"He allegedly said he watched a story about Timmothy on '20/20' and stated he wanted to get away from his own family," said a statement from Glassman's office. "A rerun had aired several weeks ago," Glassman said during a news conference Friday.
Rini also told investigators that "he wished he had a father like Timmothy's because if he went missing, his father would just keep drinking," according to a criminal complaint.
Rini appeared in federal court Friday, and is being held without bond, Glassman said. He is expected to appear at a detention hearing Tuesday.
Rini could spend eight years in federal prison if convicted, the U.S. attorney said.
"As the result of false reporting in cases such as Timmothy's, it is extremely traumatic to the families of the missing children and diverts resources away from legitimate investigative efforts," said Special Agent in Charge of FBI Louisville Robert Brown. "Today's charge is a reminder that lying to the FBI has consequences and we hold those who attempt to distract us from our important work accountable."
Brown said about 50 officers and public health officials were assigned to investigate after Rini came forward claiming to be Pitzen.
"While this is not the result that we had hoped for, the outpouring of victim law enforcement and community support gives everyone hope that we will find Timmothy," Brown said.
Rini was released from jail less than a month ago after serving 18 months in Ohio for trashing a $400,000 model home with a group of friends while holding a "tattoo party." He pleaded guilty to burglary and vandalism in that incident in January 2018.
Meanwhile, Rini was found guilty in another case on a count of unauthorized use of a vehicle. He was sentenced to three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and ordered to pay $1,750, and other court costs.
But he didn't pay the fines before heading to jail on the burglary and vandalism convictions.
When he was released from his sentence for those charges on March 7, he was supposed to begin three years of supervision. But when officials attempted to serve him with the bill, which had nearly doubled, they couldn't find him at his Medina, Ohio, address and the order was "returned not served," according to court records.
The bill was returned to court on March 26, about a week before Rini was discovered in Kentucky, NBC Chicago reported.
Rini also pleaded guilty in 2015 to passing bad checks and was sentenced to three years of intensive supervision, according to Medina County court documents. He allegedly violated his probation in 2016 and 2017, and was ordered back to court each time.
His estranged brother, Jonathan Rini, told NBC Chicago that the 23-year-old had stopped getting treatment for numerous mental health issues. "I'd tell the family that I’m sorry for what he’s done, but for him, I wouldn’t even speak to him," Jonathan Rini said.
The family of the boy, who disappeared while on a road trip with his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, said Thursday they remained hopeful that he would be found.
"My heart goes out to the family of Timothy Pitzen. I can only imagine the kind of pain they've been through and this episode has caused for them," Glassman said Friday.
"The investigation regarding Timmothy PItzen is ongoing, and law enforcement will do everything in their power to find the actual child," the prosecutor added.
Fry-Pitzen, 43, is believed to have picked Timmothy up from school, taking him to a zoo and water park before she was found dead by what appeared to be suicide in a motel room in Rockford, Illinois, according to a police report and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Notes she left behind stated her son was safe but would never be found, authorities have said.