Accused Timmothy Pitzen impersonator charged with making false statements to a federal agent

Brian Rini has claimed twice before to be a juvenile sex trafficking victim, feds say
Updated: Apr. 5, 2019 at 1:10 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH. (FOX19) - An Ohio man accused of impersonating Timmothy Pitzen, the Illinois boy who went missing in 2011 at age 6, was charged Friday morning with making false statements to a federal agent, court records show.

Brian Rini, 23, also claimed he was sexually assaulted and trafficked as that child, but a DNA test determined he was not Pitzen and he has, in fact, claimed twice before of being a juvenile sexual trafficking victim, federal officials announced.

“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 of the FBI’s Cincinnati office.

“Law enforcement takes dishonest reports very seriously, and we caution that people making false claims can and will face criminal penalties.”

Rini, 23, is in federal custody right now. He was held overnight at the Hamilton County jail without bond on an FBI detainer, jail records show.

He was released into the FBI’s custody about 10:30 a.m. jail officials confirmed.

Rini made a brief initial appearance in federal court and has a detention hearing scheduled again Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Southern District of Ohio.

He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted, said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman.

Rini was arrested at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Avondale Thursday after the FBI announced a DNA test determined he was not Pitzen, who would be 14 now.

They call his actions a trail of lies, and the family of the missing boy is devastated.

The investigation into both cases remain ongoing, Glassman said.

Rini was found wandering the streets in Newport Wednesday and told people who tried to help him and authorities he was Pitzen. He claimed he was held against his will by two men with tattoos but escaped.

Federal court records released Friday, however, paint a very different and chilling story.

Rini was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after complaining of abdominal pain.

That’s where federal officials interviewed him and obtained a DNA sample that determined he was not the missing child.

Upon further investigation, they uncovered Rini has impersonated a sex trafficking victim twice before, according to an affidavit. In those cases, he was identified via fingerprints.

Once investigators confronted him about the DNA result and his true identity, Rini immediately stated he was not Pitzen, the sworn statement shows.

Rini said he watched a story about the child on ABC’s “20/20.”

He told investigators he wanted to get away from his own family.

“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,” the affidavit states.

Rini has a history of criminal activity and has been accused of making false claims in the past. His own brother said Thursday he no longer has anything to do with Rini.

“I haven’t spoken to him in years,” Jonathon Rini said. “He’s been doing stupid stuff as long as I can remember.”

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It has been a roller coaster of emotion for friends and family.

It is one they never hoped they would ride.

Those who knew the little boy best are reeling from another disappointment from what appeared to be a promising lead into his mysterious whereabouts.

Pitzen’s grandmother and aunt spoke from Aurora, Ill. after getting the news.

“It’s been awful," his grandmother, Alana Anderson said. “We’ve been alternately hopeful and frightened. It’s just been exhausting. I feel so sorry for the young man who’s obviously had a horrible time and felt he need to say he was someone else.”

Pitzen’s aunt said: “It’s like living that day all over again. Timothy’s father is devastated once again.”

Aurora police called the incident a hoax.

They said they hope the exposure from this story will lead to some honest leads and eventually some answers for Pitzen’s family.

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Rini just got out from behind bars a few weeks ago after spending time in prison for a burglary and vandalism case, records show.

He was accused of telling a real estate agent he had $800,000 and wanted to buy a $400,000 house.

The next day, investigators say he and several others broke into the home and threw a “tattoo party,” trashing the property, leaving behind pills and a credit card.

The real estate agent told police she believed he had watched her put in the garage code.

He was released from prison March 7.

Records show he has faced numerous charges through the years. He not only spent time in prison, but also time in Ohio jails.

From passing bad checks to making false alarms to theft, he’s been in and out of court many times since 2013.

In Norton, Ohio, he was charged with falsification in January 2018.

Police said Rini, during an encounter with officers, gave police his brother’s name and social security number instead of his own. His goal was for his brother, Jonathon, to get the citation.

Jonathon says he hasn’t spoken to his brother in years, but isn’t shocked about this week’s news. He says his brother has mental health issues and has been troubled for some time. He doesn’t know why he did it, but he is sorry that it happened.

“I’d tell the family that I’m sorry for what he’s done, but for him, I wouldn’t even speak to him,” said Jonathon.

It’s not yet clear why Rini told police he was the missing child.

“I don’t really know what to say," said Jonathon.

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FOX19 legal analyst Mike Allen said Rini is in a world of trouble.

He said Rini should be most worried about charges the feds will likely file. Lying to the FBI is a felony.

And what’s worse is, Allen said he robbed the family and law enforcement of the hope they all felt, that we all felt in that moment it looked like there was a break in this huge cold case.

“It certainly is a bizarre case and it’s a sad case too,” said Allen, who added Rini has done damage, not just to Pitzen’s family, but also to anybody working the case. ”This really tears at the heartstrings of law enforcement officers. They want to solve these things and when someone comes forth and says that they are someone who’s been missing forever, and it turns out they’re lying, that’s heartbreaking," said Allen.

The charges he said, will likely be multi-jurisdictional, with obstruction charges in Ohio and Kentucky.

“If you obstruct, tamper or impede an official investigation, which is exactly what he did, you have criminal liability for that, but the big one, federal,” said Allen. “You can’t lie to an FBI agent during the course of an investigation, that’s a felony."

Detectives probably were suspicious right off the bat, said Paul Humphries, a 30-year retired veteran from Cincinnati Police Department.

“I’m sure, when you start talking to somebody who looks like he did, this is a wild story, he’s giving weird details, the spider tattoo on the neck and the snake tattoos on the arms, I’m sure that right from the beginning, bells were going off,” Humphries said.

If parents want to freak out, he said, just look at some of the disturbing stats on the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children. More than 400,000 kids are reported missing.

Many are runaways, but plenty more just vanish, he noted.

"That would be the ultimate for any police officer, local, FBI, whatever, to be able to solve a crime like that and reunite a child with his father,” Allen said.

“People are scratching their heads as to why this other person, this kid, would say something like that, it’s just awful.”

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