The 23-year-old Ohio man who claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen, an Illinois boy who went missing in 2011, has been charged with lying to federal agents, authorities announced Friday.
Brian Rini was arrested Thursday night after DNA evidence revealed he was not the missing 14-year-old. Prosecutors said Friday that Rini wanted to “get away from his family” and was inspired to pose as Pitzen, who was last seen in May 2011, after watching a rerun of a 20/20 episode on the case.
“He needs to be punished for this,” Rini’s brother, Jonathon Rini, told The Daily Beast on Friday. “He has been doing stuff like this, stupid stuff, for as long as I can remember and I just hope he finally gets the help he needs. But he deserves to go to prison for this.”
The real Timmothy Pitzen went missing nearly eight years ago after his mother, Amy Fryer-Pitzen, picked him up at his elementary school for a road trip. Fryer-Pitzen was found dead by suicide days later, with a note saying her son was with people who “would care for him and love him.” “You will never find him,” the note added.
“On behalf of the United States, I want to offer my condolences to the family of Timmothy Pitzen,” U.S. Attorney Ben Glassman said in a Friday press conference announcing the charges. “I can only imagine the kind of pain that they have been through and that this episode has caused for them.”
Prosecutors allege that on Wednesday, police responded to a call that Rini was “wandering the street, looking confused and in need of assistance.” He repeatedly told investigators that he was Pitzen and just “wanted to go home,” authorities said. After correctly providing Pitzen’s birth date—though incorrectly spelling his name—Rini gave the feds detailed information about how he had been abducted, suffered physical and sexual abuse, and escaped from a hotel room nearby.
“Rini allegedly claimed he had recently escaped from a hotel room in which two men had been holding him captive,” the affidavit states, adding that Rini claimed he had been “sexually and physically abused for years while in captivity and that he was having abdominal pain.” The 23-year-old also said he was the victim of child trafficking.
On Friday, FBI special agent Herb Stapleton said investigators first became skeptical of Rini’s claims when he refused to provide fingerprints while getting treatment at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He did eventually provide a swab that the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office tested, allowing them to quickly determine he was not Pitzen.
“I think there were suspicions relatively quickly,” Stapleton said, adding that the priority was to “ensure that under any circumstances a victim is getting the care they need.”
When confronted with the preliminary DNA test results, Rini allegedly confessed that he’d lied.
“Further investigation by the FBI found that Rini had allegedly portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim on two prior occasions. In those instances, he was only identified once he was fingerprinted,’’ the affidavit states.
Braun revealed on Friday that Rini admitted to concocting the Pitzen story after watching a rerun episode about the missing boy on 20/20. He allegedly told authorities he wanted a father like James Pitzen.
“We confirmed that there was such a 20/20 episode, and in fact, a rerun had aired several weeks ago,” Glassman said.
If convicted, Rini could face up to eight years in federal prison, according to authorities. He is currently being held at Hamilton County jail without bond and is expected to appear at a detention hearing on Tuesday.
“It is not OK to make false claims to law enforcement in matters like this,” Glassman said. “It is not OK because it causes pain to the missing child’s family.”
According to court documents, Rini was released from an Ohio jail on March 7 after he was sentenced to 18 months behind bars for trashing a $400,000 model home during a "tattoo party" with a bunch of friends. As part of his release from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Rini was ordered to serve three years of probation, which requires him to obtain a travel permit before leaving the state.
“He was receiving treatment last year, but then he stopped,” his brother said. “Then he got into more trouble but we never expected he could do this.”