And the plot thickens. On Friday morning, ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo called a close friend from his church in early December to confess that he was behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax. The friend, who ESPN said is a woman in her mid-20s, agreed to be interviewed under the condition of anonymity in fear of her family’s safety. However, she did allow for her voice to be recorded.
The woman reportedly told ESPN that Tuiasosopo called her at the beginning of December and gave her a “tearful confession,” explaining that he had played a prank on Te’o and that it wasn’t the first time he had done something like this.
“He (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,” the woman explained. “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.”
The friend also told ESPN that Tuiasosopo admitted to having his female cousin speak to Te’o over the phone and repeatedly pose as Lennay Kekua. Outside the Lines spoke with two other people who said their cousin was the victim of a hoax orchestrated by Ronaiah that was similar to the one he pulled on Te’o.
J.R. Vaosa, 28, and Celeste Tuioti-Mariner, 21, both of California, said that in 2008 their cousin entered an online relationship with a person he believed to be a model. Voasa said the cousin showed him a photo of a Victoria Secret model that he was told was Kekua. One time, Voasa said he went with his cousin to meet Kekua.
“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.
“I just knew that my cousin would invite her to certain events and Lennay would always say she would go to those things, but she would never end up going and instead of her going we would see Ronaiah,” Tuioti-Mariner added.
The cousins said they had a feeling Te’o was being victimized but they were unsure of how to go about it, so they began sending tweets about their suspicions and sarcastically claiming that they were Kekua. That led to reporters at their doors and threats being made when the Deadspin broke the story on Wednesday.
The more we hear, the more it sounds possible that Te’o may have indeed been duped. It’s amazing that a person could be so naive that they would fall in love with a woman that they never actually met, but that doesn’t make it impossible. Based on some of the stories we have heard about Tuiasosopo and the account Te’o’s uncle gave of him, it seems safe to say that he is a twisted person who has a history of manipulating people.
UPDATE: It gets a bit more confusing. Deadspin has revealed that J.R. Vaosa was one of their two unnamed sources for their original story about Te’o. While their story matches up with ESPN’s in that Deadspin says Vaosa told them Tuiasosopo had confessed to his best friend that the whole Kekua thing was a hoax, they also said Voasa was the person who said he was “80 percent sure” that Te’o knew of the hoax at some point before Kekua’s “death.” Since Voasa said he has a cousin that was also duped by Tuiasosopo, you’d think that means he would believe that Te’o was indeed fooled.
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