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Ex-convict charged with claiming to be missing boy

The FBI declared Rini’s story a hoax after performing a DNA test.

(L) Undated photo of Brian Rini who claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen (R), who disappeared in 2011 at age 6
(L) Undated photo of Brian Rini who claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen (R), who disappeared in 2011 at age 6
Image: PA Images/Aurora Police Department

Updated Apr 5th 2019, 9:23 PM

A 23-YEAR-OLD ex-convict accused of pulling a cruel hoax by pretending to be a long-missing Illinois boy was charged today with making false statements to federal authorities.

The FBI said Brian Rini had made false claims twice before, portraying himself as a juvenile sex-trafficking victim.

The Medina, Ohio, man was jailed in Cincinnati, a day after telling authorities he was 14-year-old Timmothy Pitzen, who disappeared in 2011 at age 6. The FBI declared Rini’s story a hoax after performing a DNA test.

The charge should send a message about the damage such false claims can do, said US Attorney Benjamin Glassman.

“It’s not OK to do it because of the harm that it causes, the pain, for the family of that missing child,” Glassman said.

‘Devastating’ 

Rini’s story had briefly raised hope among Timmothy’s relatives that the youngster’s disappearance had finally been solved after eight long years. But those hopes were dashed when the test results came back.

“It’s devastating. It’s like reliving that day all over again,” said Timmothy’s aunt Kara Jacobs.

Rini was jailed for a bail hearing on Tuesday. His public defender did not immediately return a message. Rini could get up to eight years in prison.

Rini was found wandering the streets on Wednesday and told authorities he had just escaped his captors after years of abuse, officials said. He claimed he had been forced to have sex with men, according to the FBI.

When confronted with the DNA results, Rini acknowledged his identity, saying he had watched a story about Timmothy on ABC’s “20/20″ and wanted to get away from his own family, the FBI said.

Rini said “he wished he had a father like Timmothy’s because if he went missing, his father would just keep drinking,” the FBI said in court papers. A message left with Rini’s father for comment was not immediately returned.

Glassman said authorities were sceptical early on of Rini’s claim because he refused to be fingerprinted, though he did agree to a DNA swab.

Rini also looks older than 14, but Glassman said investigators wanted to make sure “there was no opportunity missed to actually find Timmothy Pitzen.”

Rini’s DNA was already on file because of his criminal record. He was released from prison less than a month ago after serving more than a year for burglary and vandalism.

He twice portrayed himself in Ohio as a juvenile victim of sex trafficking, and in each case was identified after being fingerprinted, authorities said.

In 2017, Rini was treated at an Ohio centre for people with mental health or substance abuse problems, according to court papers.

Timmothy, of Aurora, Illinois, vanished after his mother pulled him out of kindergarten, took him on a two-day road trip to the zoo and a water park, and then killed herself at a hotel. She left a note saying that her son was safe with people who would love and care for him, and added: “You will never find him.”

After Rini’s account was pronounced a hoax, Timmothy’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.”

Timmothy vanished after his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, pulled him out of kindergarten early one day, took him on a two-day road trip to the zoo and a water park, and then killed herself at a hotel.

She left a note saying that her son was safe with people who would love and care for him, and added: “You will never find him.”

Timmothy’s family was cautiously hopeful over Wednesday’s news, as were neighbours and others who have long wondered whether he is dead or alive.

“It’s like reliving that day all over again, and Timmothy’s father is devastated once again, as are we,” said the boy’s aunt Kara Jacobs, her voice choked with emotion.

Neither Jacobs nor the boy’s grandmother Alana Anderson tried to hide their disappointment as they struggled for composure during a brief news conference outside Anderson’s home in Antioch, about 60 miles north of Aurora.

Source: Global News/YouTube

Anderson said her prayer has always been that when Timmothy was old enough, “he would find us if we couldn’t find him.”

She held out hope that if he’s “in a place where he has communication with the media or a computer, that he’ll remember us enough to look for us, and I think he will. He’s a very smart guy.”

“Law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family. Unfortunately, that day will not be today,” FBI spokesman Timothy Beam said in a statement Thursday.

Missing Child Investigation A slab of concrete sits in the backyard of the house where Timmothy used to live. Source: AP/PA Images

In Timmothy’s hometown of Aurora, Illinois, police Sgt. Bill Rowley said that over the years his department has received thousands of tips about Timmothy, including false sightings.

“We’re always worried about copycats, especially something that has a big national attention like this,” he said.

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