Manti Te’o roundup: Friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo says he confessed to girlfriend hoax
|01.18.13 at 2:11 pm ET|
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the friend of Manti Te’o suspected of being behind the creation of Te’o's nonexistent girlfriend, called a friend and confessed to being responsible, the friend told ESPN Thursday.
The woman, who spoke anonymously, said Tuiasosopo told her that Te’o was a victim and truly thought he had a relationship with a woman named Lennay Kekua until he learned the truth in December.
Tuiasosopo also confessed to her that he’d perpetrated the same hoax on other people. Two people told ESPN that they have a cousin who experienced the same thing as Te’o. In that case, Tuiasosopo also used the name Lennay Kekua and showed the cousin pictures from a Victoria’s Secret catalog that he said were Kekua.
“[Ronaiah] told me that Manti was not involved at all, he was a victim. … The girlfriend was a lie, the accident was a lie, the leukemia was a lie,” said the woman. “He was crying, he was literally crying, he’s like, ‘I know, I know what I have to do.’ It’s not only Manti, but he was telling me that it’s a lot of other people they had done this to.”
Even if Tuiasosopo’s confession is true and Te’o was completely victimized, Te’o also continued to discuss Kekua in the media as if she were real even after finding out that she was not. The date Te’o and Notre Dame gave that he found out about the hoax was Dec. 6, but on Dec. 8 at the Heisman Trophy presentation, Te’o spoke at length about Kekua’s death and the way his Notre Dame coaches responded.
He also said on ESPN Radio later that day that he hoped Kekua — along with his grandmother, who died on Sept. 12 — were proud of him. He did not tell anyone at Notre Dame that it was all a hoax until Dec. 26. Since Te’o has not yet followed up on his original response to the story, his reasons for waiting this long to admit he’d been tricked — if that was the case — remain unknown.
TE’O'S FAMILY INSISTS HE WAS DUPED
Te’o's family also is insisting that he was the victim of a hoax and truly believed he had an online relationship with Lennay Kekua until he found out in December that she did not exist. In the family’s first comments on the matter, Te’o's uncle Alema Te’o called Tuiasosopo a “rat.”
“I know a liar when I’m around one, and [Tuiasosopo] was one,” Alema Te’o said during a radio appearance on The Zone Sports Network on Thursday. “I smelled him as a bad rat from the get-go and I’m not afraid to come out and say that. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing. He’s been lying every step of the way.”
Alema Te’o also said he believes Tuiasosopo hired a woman to pose as Kekua, and that that was who Te’o met during the in-person meetings he described.
Kekua’s alleged death came hours after Te’o's grandmother actually did pass away, which Alema Te’o said makes Tuiasosopo’s behavior even more incomprehensible.
“I can’t figure but think that this dude is absolutely sick to actually pull this right in the middle of another tragedy,” Te’o said. “[Manti's father] Brian and the family, their efforts towards [Te’o’s grandmother] who passed away now start to shift toward, the attention goes to Manti and where he is at mentally.
“They don’t get the chance to grieve the mourning of his grandmother because of this information that comes about now about this so-called, the fictional girlfriend of [Manti’s] passing away. I feel that man, they stole that moment. This guy’s got some issues.”
WOMAN WHOSE PHOTOS WERE PASSED OFF AS GIRLFRIEND IDENTIFIED
A woman who was represented online as Lennay Kekua is a Los Angeles resident named Diane O’Meara, who went to high school with Tuiasosopo. Friends of O’Meara, 23, told the New York Post that she had no idea that her photos were being used until the story broke this week.
“Somebody stole her identity,” a relative, Olga Volkov, told The Post. “[O’Meara’s family] found out about it yesterday. They were shocked.”
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