The man who allegedly claimed to be missing Illinois boy Timmothy Pitzen told authorities he learned details of the case from a recent episode of "20/20."
Brian Michael Rini, 23, was charged with lying to the FBI after a DNA test proved he was not the boy.
After FBI agents told him about the DNA results, Rini admitted he made it up after seeing the story on a "20/20" special, according to an affidavit by a Cincinnati police officer working with feds.
Rini faces eight years in prison if convicted.
Timmothy was just 6 when he vanished in 2011 after his mom took her own life.
"My heart goes out to the Pitzen family," said U.S. attorney Brian Glassman. "I can only imagine the pain this has caused them."
Glassman said it's not the first time Rini has made false claims to authorities.
"On two previous occasions he has claimed to be the victim of sex traffickers," he said.
Rini, 23, has a long history of mental problems, according to his brother, Jonathan.
"He's been doing stupid stuff for as long as I can remember," he told reporters.
Jonathan also apologized to the Pitzen family for the heartbreaking hoax.
"I'd tell the family I'm sorry for what he's done, but for him I wouldn't even speak to him," he said. "I have no compassion for him whatsoever."
The silver lining for the Pitzen family is how the hoax has put Timmothy's disappearance back in the spotlight.
"We know that you are out there somewhere Tim, and we will never stop looking for you," said his aunt at a press conference.