A man who falsely claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen, a boy who mysteriously disappeared in 2011, has been arrested and charged with lying to federal agents.
Brian Rini, 23, told police in Kentucky that he was Timmothy, whose disappearance caused a nationwide search, and claimed he had been held captive for years before managing to escaped on Wednesday. DNA tests later proved he was lying.
The FBI said the results identified the man as Rini, a convicted criminal from Ohio, who has falsely portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim twice before.
Confronted with the DNA results, Rini finally confirmed his true identity and said he had come up with the hoax after watching a documentary about the missing child.
Timmothy vanished in May 2011 from Aurora, Illinois, after his mother picked him up at school and took him on a three-day road trip, which included going to a zoo and a water park.
Amy Fry-Pitzen, 43, then took her own life at a hotel, leaving a note saying that her six-year-old son was safe but would never be found. No trace of the boy was ever found.
Timmothy's family had been cautiously hopeful that he had finally been found but compared the hoax to "reliving that day all over again".
“It’s been awful. We’ve been on tenterhooks. We’ve been alternatively hopeful and frightened. It’s just been exhausting,” said Alana Anderson, Timmothy’s grandmother.
She added the family "have no idea why" someone had impersonated her grandson.
Rini was found Wednesday in Newport, Kentucky, "wandering the street and looking confused and in need of assistance," according to a court filing by FBI agent Mary Braun.
After identifying himself as Timmothy and claimed that he had escaped from a hotel where he had been forced to have sex with men against his will, the document said.
However an FBI investigation found that Rini has twice before portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim, and in each case was later identified after being fingerprinted.
He was released from prison on probation less than a month ago after serving more than a year for burglary and vandalism.
He appeared in federal court Friday where he was charged with making false statements to federal agents.
In a statement, the FBI said: "Law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family. Unfortunately, that day will not be today".