Criminal who impersonated Timothy Pitzen learned about missing boy after watching TV show; has history of fake abduction claims: FBI

An Ohio man who pretended to be a boy who disappeared in 2011 is behind bars facing federal charges.

Bryan Michael Rini, 23, was booked into the Hamilton County Jail on Thursday night, according to FOX 19. The FBI took custody of the man at around 10:30 a.m. Friday morning. He’s been charged with giving a false statement or representation to federal authorities.

When authorities found Rini in Newport, Kentucky, on Wednesday, he claimed he was missing boy, Timmothy Pitzen, who disappeared in 2011 when he was six. The suspect, who said he was 14, complained of abdominal pain and was taken to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. While there, he refused to provide fingerprints, but was given a buccal swab DNA test, which proved his true identity.

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While waiting on the DNA test results, Rini allegedly told an FBI agent that he had been abducted and managed to escape after years of being held captive. He allegedly claimed he had been physically and sexually abused for years.

On two prior occasions, according to the FBI, the suspect claimed to be a juvenile sex trafficking victim. On both previous occasions, he allowed his fingerprints to be taken, which resulted in authorities learning his true identity.

According to the arrest affidavit, Rini learned about Timmothy from watching a “20/20” episode on the missing child. A repeat of the episode aired a few weeks before he claimed to be the boy.

Rini explained that he chose Timmothy because he “wished he had a father like Timmothy’s,” and said his own father would probably “continue drinking” if he had ever disappeared.

“Law enforcement takes dishonest reports very seriously, and we caution that people making false claims can and will face criminal penalties,” Herb Stapleton, acting special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cincinnati office said during a Friday morning press conference.

LIVE: Officials are releasing new details about the Timmothy Pitzen case. Pitzen is the Illinois boy who went missing in 2011. The man accused of impersonating the missing boy was charged in federal court this morning>>

Posted by KFVS-TV on Friday, April 5, 2019


Rini has been dealing with legal issues that span back for years, including charges for passing bad checks, theft, making false alarms, trespassing, vandalism, and burglary, according to Medina County Municipal court records. Rini just finished a prison sentence in March 2019 for burglary and vandalism convictions.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, police found the Rini in a Newport, Kentucky, neighborhood at around 7 a.m. on Wednesday, close to 8th Street and Columbia Street. Someone reported seeing a “young teen” walking around the area as if  “he didn’t belong there.”

“[He was] walking around the east side of Newport and didn’t seem like he belonged there. … Things didn’t look right,” Newport Police Chief Tom Collins said.

When questioned, Rini reportedly claimed he had been traded off to different people during years of captivity. Witnesses said he seemed antsy and nervous and looked as if he had just been beaten up.

Meanwhile, Timmothy’s family is coping with devastation once again. Throughout the years, several promising leads turned out to be false. They were “cautiously hopeful” that this time, however, that Timmothy had finally been found.

“It’s been awful,” Timmothy’s 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 needed to say he was someone else.”

Who is Timmothy Pitzen?

The real Timmothy disappeared with his mother Amy Pitzen, on May 12, 2011, from Aurora, Illinois. Amy took her soon out of school earlier that day, claiming there was a family emergency. It was the last time the boy’s father, Jim Pitzen, saw him.

Amy took Timmothy to several places over the span of the next several days, including the Brookfield Zoo, a toy store, and the Kalahari Resort, a waterpark resort chain in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. They later drove to a checked into the Rockford Inn, in Rockford, Illinois.

Amy placed a series of calls to family and friends, informing them that Timmothy was safe and happy, even handing the phone to the boy so he could talk with a few of his family members. Timmothy sounded as if he was having a wonderful time with his mother, although he reportedly complained that he was hungry.

Three days later, police found Amy in the hotel room, dead from self-inflicted cuts and slashes on her wrists and neck. A toxicology report later revealed she’d taken a deadly dose of antihistamines. Amy had apparently battled depression for years and tried at least once in the past to take her own life.

Timmothy Pitzen
Timmothy Pitzen [NCMEC]

Timmothy was nowhere to be found. The only evidence left of Timmothy’s disappearance was a suicide note from Amy, stating that her son was safe and with people who would care for him. At the end of the note, she wrote, “You will never find him.”

Throughout the course of the next several years, numerous tips poured in to investigators. Someone in Florida said she recognized Timmothy as a boy who’d recently moved into the neighborhood, with a family who all had Northwestern accents.

Another tipster thought she recognized the boy at a garage sale in Rockton, Illinois. Out of the hundreds of tips that piled in, none led to Timmothy.

Aurora police Detective Lee Catavu stated that although the leads are going nowhere, he goes through each and every one, and will continue to do so until he can locate Timmothy.

In 2015, according to the Chicago Tribune, Catavu he said the family’s hope that the boy is out there alive somewhere is a strong driving force that keeps his own hope alive.

“That’s what motivates us to keep looking,” said Catavu. “The family is just devastated … in some ways it’s worse than knowing he’s dead because there is no closure.”

The biggest challenge, according to Catavu, is determining if there was anyone else Amy communicated with that may have taken the boy in. Family members insist that Amy was a loving mother and would have never harmed Timmothy. In fact, Catavu said that there isn’t one person who knew Amy that thought she hurt him.

“There is not a single person in her life that believes Amy Fry-Pitzen hurt her son.”

Timmothy’s case remains active. Anyone with any information should contact the Aurora police at 630-256-5500, or the NCMEC hotline at 1-800-843-5678.

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[Feature Photo: Brian Rini/Police Handout]