Ex-con who claimed to be missing boy faces up to two years in prison after pleading guilty in Ohio

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – A former convict pleaded guilty on Wednesday to stealing the identity of an Illinois boy who has been missing for years, in a case that drew national attention last year, a U.S. prosecutor said.

Brian Rini, 24, of Medina, Ohio, faces up to two years in prison. He was charged in federal court in Cincinnati in April with lying to federal agents after he told authorities in Newport, Kentucky, that he was Timmothy Pitzen, last seen in May 2011 when he was six years old. He said he had escaped from an eight-year ordeal at the hands of sex traffickers.

Rini pleaded guilty to an aggravated identity theft charge, David DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in a statement after a hearing.

DeVillers said a sentencing hearing date has yet to be set.

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 David Gregorio)