By Brendan O’Brien
(Reuters) – A former convict who drew national attention last year when he claimed to be an Illinois teen who went missing in 2011 after his mother killed herself has agreed to plead guilty, court papers showed.
Brian Rini, 24, of Medina, Ohio, was charged in federal court in Cincinnati in April with lying to federal agents after he told authorities in Newport, Kentucky, that he was missing teen Timmothy Pitzen and that he had escaped from an eight-year ordeal at the hands of sex traffickers.
Pitzen was last seen in May 2011 when he was 6 years old.
Details of the plea agreement were sealed when it was entered into the court on Monday, according to online case records. Rini faces up to eight years in prison if found guilty.
U.S. prosecutor Kyle Healey who is trying the case and Rini’s attorney Richard Monahan, a public defender, were unavailable for comment.
A status conference in the case was scheduled for Wednesday.
Rini’s claim that he was Pitzen was debunked after DNA test results conducted at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital confirmed he was not the long-lost boy from Aurora, Illinois.
After confessing that he was not Pitzen, Rini told federal agents he had heard about the missing boy’s case on the ABC television program “20/20” and wanted to get away from his own family, according to court documents.
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.
Pitzen’s case has stumped authorities since he disappeared in May 2011. The boy was last seen with his mother, who pulled him out of school in Aurora, 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.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Leslie Adler)