(NEW YORK) — Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend “Lennay Kekua” may have hoaxed other unsuspecting suitors.
Catfish movie director and actor Ariel Schulman told ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday that he believes there may have been “a few other people duped by the fake Lennay character.”
Schulman and his brother Nev Schulman have been looking into the elaborate scam and claim to be corresponding with various players involved. They have come to believe that there were “a lot of other people that she was corresponding with before and maybe even during her relationship [with Te’o].”
Nev was the subject of the 2010 movie Catfish, which spawned the TV series, because he himself was sucked in by an Internet pretender — or a “catfish” — who built an elaborate fake life.
As questions mount about Te’o’s possible role in the complex scam, the number one question is whether Te’o was unknowingly ensnared, as he says, or whether he was complicit in the scam.
“I stand by the guy. My heart goes out to him,” Ariel said. His brother has reached out to Te’o, but has not heard back.
“He had his heart broken,” Ariel said. “He was grieving for someone, whether she existed or not. Those were real feelings.”
Te’o has kept a low-profile since the news of the scandal broke. He released a statement calling the situation “incredibly embarrassing” and maintaining that he was a victim of a hoax.
He was captured briefly by news cameras on Thursday at a Florida training facility, but has not spoken publicly.
As for the woman whose photo was used as the face of Lennay Kekua, Inside Edition has identified her as Diane O’Meara who is very much alive. The show caught up with her on Thursday, but she declined to comment.
ABC News’ legal analyst Dan Abrams said that O’Meara may be the one person in the scandal with the power to sue since her likeness was taken and used without her permission.
As for Te’o, even if he knew about the deception, it appears that he did not do anything illegal.
“He’s allowed to lie to the public. He’s allowed to lie to the media. He’s not allowed to lie to the authorities,” Abrams said on Good Morning America.
Questions also remain about the timeline of events and when Te’o discovered that the “love of his life,” as he called her, was nothing more than a fake Internet persona.
According to Notre Dame’s timeline of events, Te’o learned his girlfriend didn’t exist on Dec. 6.
But in a Dec. 8 interview with South Bend, Ind., TV station WSBT, Te’o said, “I really got hit with cancer. I lost both my grandparents an my girlfriend to cancer.” And on Dec. 11, he talked about his girlfriend in a newspaper interview.
Te’o alerted Notre Dame on Dec. 26 about the scam, the university said.
Skeptics have also cited comments by Te’o’s father, Brian Te’o, who told a newspaper how Kekua used to visit his son in Hawaii.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said the university launched their own investigation.
“Our investigators, through their work, were able to discover online chatter between the perpetrators,” Swarbrick said at a Wednesday news conference. “That was sort of the ultimate proof.”
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