Ohio ex-convict charged after claiming to be long-lost Illinois boy

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Brian Michael Rini in an undated photo made available by US authorities. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Timmothy Pitzen disappeared in May 2011 at the age of six, after his mother pulled him out of school and took him on a trip to a zoo and a water park before committing suicide. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Federal prosecutors on Friday (April 5) 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 killed herself.

Brian Michael Rini of Medina, Ohio, was charged with lying to federal agents after he appeared looking confused in Newport, Kentucky, outside Cincinnati on Wednesday and claimed he was 14-year-old Pitzen, federal officials said.

He told them he had escaped from an eight-year ordeal at the hands of sex traffickers. Pitzen was last seen when he was six years old.

Rini's claim was debunked on Thursday after DNA test results conducted at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital confirmed he was not the long lost boy from Aurora, Illinois.

"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.

After confessing that he was not Pitzen, Rini told federal agents he had heard about the missing boy's case on the ABC television programme 20/20 and wanted to get away from his own family, according to court documents.

"When questioned further, Rini stated that he wished he had a father like Timmothy's because if he went missing, his father would just keep drinking," Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Mary Braun said in the court documents.

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.

Rini had twice before claimed to be a child sex trafficking victim, federal prosecutors said. 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's case has stumped authorities since May 2011. The boy was last seen 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 took her own life 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."

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