The man believed to be behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax admitted late last year to duping the Heisman finalist, a friend said in an interview.
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The woman, who spoke to Outside the Lines on ESPN under the condition that she not be identified, said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called a church friend crying and admitted last month to fooling Te’o.
She said Tuiasosopo referred to the episode with the Notre Dame linebacker as a game and said it wasn’t the first such hoax he’d attempted.
"He 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," the woman said. "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."
Outside the Lines interviewed two others who said they have a cousin who was victimized by a similar online hoax by Tuiasosopo, who has angered the player’s family.
Alema Te’o, Manti’s uncle, slammed Tuiasosopo, saying he “needs to be prosecuted,” the New York Post reported Friday.
“I know a liar when I’m around one, and [Tuiasosopo] was one,” Te’o said during a radio interview. “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.”
In the OTL interview, J.R. Vaosa and Celeste Tuioti-Mariner of California said their cousin began an online romance in 2008 with a woman who portrayed herself as a model. Vaosa said the cousin showed Vaosa an online photo of a woman from a Victoria’s Secret catalog that he said was Kekua.
Vaosa said that the online Kekua agreed to in-person meetings that didn’t pan out.
"When Lennay said she was gonna be at this park one day, we’d go to the park and Ronaiah pops up and then we go to the gym in Orange County where the kids have volleyball tournaments, Ronaiah’s there," Vaosa said.
The family convinced Vaosa’s cousin to cut things off with Kekua and Tuiasosopo, whom they were convinced was the real Kekua, Tuioti-Mariner said.
Vaosa and Tuioti-Mariner saw the story last fall about Te’o’s dying girlfriend.
"When I found out about the Samoan football player (and) his girlfriend, his Grandma died the same day, I was like, ‘Whoa this is crazy,’ I feel so bad for him, so I just looked him up," Vaosa said. "I found out his girlfriend’s name was Lennay Kekua. And right when I read the name Lennay Kekua, I immediately thought of Ronaiah."
The cousins believed Te’o was being victimized, but they were uncertain of what to do.
Alema Te’o, the linebacker’s uncle, met Tuiasosopo before his nephew played against USC on Nov. 24. The newspaper reported he believes Tuiasosopo used his 9-year-old sister to pose as Kekua’s cousin that day.
“He brought this young girl,” Te’o said. “He said that this is the 9-year-old girl that he would speak to when he was in conversations with Lennay on the phone. This shows the character of this guy Ronaiah. He introduces her as a cousin and this girl is his little sister.
“The whole time Ronaiah is standing over her with two hands on her shoulders, almost guarding her, not letting her say a few things, not letting her speak for herself. She was used as a pawn.”