Manti Te’o Hoax Had Parallels to Alleged Perpetrator’s Life
(NEW YORK) — The script for the elaborate hoax played on Manti Te’o, from a horrific car accident to a leukemia diagnosis, according to reports, had parallels to the alleged perpetrator’s life.
In December, three months after the fictional Lennay Kekua was killed off, the alleged orchestrator of the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasoposo, called Te’o to confess it was all a sham, the Notre Dame football star told ESPN.
Also on the line, he said, was Kekua, the woman whom he spent hours talking to on the phone and once called the love of his life.
“They said, ‘It’s Lennay’. And so we carried on that conversation and I just got mad. And I just went on a rampage,” Te’o said.
The woman, whose voice he fell asleep to at night on the phone, may have been a fabrication, but the alleged script used to fool Te’o seemed to mirror Tuiasoposo’s reality.
Tuiasoposo’s father posted on Facebook that his son and his band survived a severe car accident last March.
And at the same time the fake Kekua was diagnosed with leukemia, Tuiasoposo’s cousin, Jazmine Lutu, also in her early 20s, was battling the disease, USA Today reported.
The sophistication and the depth of the hoax, which was publicly unraveled last week, left many people with questions that are only beginning to be answered.
Te’o received phone calls, text messages and letters before every football game from his “girlfriend.” He was in contact with her family, including a twin brother, a second brother, sister and parents. He called often to check in with them, just as he did with his own family. And “Kekua” kept in contact with Te’o’s friends and family, and teammates spoke to her on the phone.
“There are a remarkable number of characters involved. We don’t know how many people they represent,” Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference this week. “There are male and female characters, brothers, cousins, mother, and we don’t know if it’s two people playing multiple characters or multiple people.”
“It goes to the sophistication of this, that there are all these sort of independent pieces that reinforce elements of the story all the way through,” he said.
One of Te’o’s teammates who asked not to be identified told ABC News that it was normal for Te’o to pass his phone around to teammates when he was on the line with “Lennay” so they could say hello to her.
“I talked to her,” this teammate said. “I wasn’t suspicious.”
When Te’o got the call telling him that Lennay had died last fall, he was in the locker room, the teammate said.
“He got real emotional, crying,” the teammate said. “He’s an emotional guy.”
The teammate said he thinks Te’o genuinely got hoaxed. The fact that Te’o talked about meeting her and touching her hand — when really he only “met” her on the Internet — makes this teammate think that he was not completely telling the truth about his relationship.
“I think he was just embarrassed about it, the whole Internet thing,” the teammate said. The player said he hasn’t talked to Te’o since this story broke.
In response to Te’o’s comments that the investigators hired by the school never interviewed him, just asked for a picture and any evidence he had, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown provides the following statement:
“Notre Dame engaged with a highly regarded investigative firm to, first and foremost, determine who had perpetrated what by all appearances was a hoax. The ‘catfish’ scheme and those responsible for it were discovered so quickly that there was no need for an interview with Manti – though that would have been the next step had nothing turned up. The investigators’ work has been verified by media reports and the confession this week of the principal participant.”
Brown said that the investigators started their work on Jan. 2 and on Jan. 4 and the school received an oral report with the information on the “catfish” scheme and the perpetrators.
“Catfish” movie director and actor Ariel Schulman told “Good Morning America” that he believes there may have been “a few other people duped by the fake Lennay character.”
Te’o at first kept a low-profile after the news of the scandal broke. But he has since released a statement calling the situation “incredibly embarrassing” and granted an interview to ESPN. ABC News’ Katie Couric will conduct the first on-camera interview with Manti Te’o for her syndicated daytime talk show, “Katie,” on Jan. 24.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio