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An Ohio man who falsely claimed to be a boy who went missing nearly 10 years ago is facing a two-year prison sentence after entering a guilty plea this week.
Brian Michael Rini, 24, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, January 8, to aggravated identity theft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio said in a news release. The Medina resident claimed last year to be Timmothy Pitzen, a missing boy from Aurora, Illinois who vanished in 2011; authorities found Pitzen asking for help in Newport, Kentucky in April, and although Rini claimed that he was Pitzen and had spent years in captivity, his story was quickly disproven by a DNA test, prompting his arrest.
A federal judge on Wednesday said that Rini will serve two years behind bars, and will receive credit for time served for the nine months he’s already spent in custody, the Associated Press reports. However, Rini has not yet been sentenced, with U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett requesting first that the U.S. Probation Office conduct a pre-sentencing investigation; the report, which will include information on Rini’s background and mental health, is due on March 25, according to the outlet.
Rini will also be facing a year of probation following his release from prison, the Associated Press stated in a separate report. He was also initially facing an additional charge of lying to FBI agents — which, in conjunction with the identity theft charge, could have seen him spending eight years behind bars — but prosecutors dropped that charge, according to the outlet.
Pitzen, the missing person Rini claimed to be, went missing on May 11, 2011 at the age of 6, after his mother, Am Fry-Pitzen picked him up early from school that day without notifying her husband, PEOPLE reports. The two spent the following days visiting a zoo and staying at a resort until, on May 14, Fry-Pitzen was found dead in a hotel room in Rockford, having slit her wrists, according to CBS Chicago.
Her son was nowhere to be found. In her suicide note, she suggested that he was safe and with people who would take care of him, but she added, “You will never find him.”
When police came into contact with Rini in April, he claimed to be 14-year-old Pitzen and said that he “just wanted to go home,” officials said in Wednesday's release. He claimed that two men had been holding him captive in a hotel room and sexually assaulting him, and authorities took him to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after he complained of stomach pain, according to the release. As investigators began to question Rini, he reportedly kept up the charade and, although he refused to have his fingerprints taken, he did consent to a DNA test, which confirmed that Rini was not actually the missing boy, but instead a 23-year-old man who’d been released from a prison in Ohio the month before.
When confronted by investigators, Rini admitted to lying and said that he wanted to get away from his family, according to the office. Investigators later found that Rini, who said that he’d seen Pitzen’s story on ABC’s “20/20,” had also previously lied about being a teenage victim of sex trafficking on two separate occasions.
After Rini’s true identity was revealed, Pitzen’s family said that the ordeal had been hard for them. His aunt, Kara Jacobs, described it as “devastating,” according to Cincinnati’s WLWT5.
“It’s like reliving that day all over again, and Timmothy's father is devastated once again,” she said.
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