According to a report from the New York Daily News, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo not only created the Lennay Kekua identity, but he also provided the female voice used to dupe Te’o.
The Daily News reports that Tuiasosopo’s lawyer, Milton Grimes, told them that Tuiasosopo was the voice behind Kekua.
According to Grimes, Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with,” but it was really Ronaiah posing as Kekua.
Grimes says Tuiasosopo has voice and drama training, and that the prankster’s actions were no different from what actors do on a regular basis.
“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes told the Daily News. “It was establishing a communication with someone. … It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”
Tuiasosopo reportedly delayed making a public statement because of a California law that went into effect Jan. 1 that makes it illegal for someone to create a false online identity.
Tuiasosopo reportedly is seeing a mental health professional and has apologized to anyone he can.
I really hope he is brought up on some sort of fraud charges and sent to jail for his actions. He is an awful person.
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PALMDALE — The home where Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is currently staying became secluded after Deadspin’s report was published last week. Tuiasosopo is alleged to be the mastermind behind “Lennay Kekua,” a fake identity he supposedly used to dupe Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who called the fabricated woman his girlfriend. Fascinated by the story, LBS decided to change things up and do some field reporting last week. Our findings were limited, but we can tell and show you what it’s like by the home.
I headed out to Palmdale, Calif., last Thursday evening to the address listed for the Oasis Christian Church of the Antelope Valley. Tuiasosopo’s father, Titus, is a pastor for the church. Ronaiah is said to be heavily involved in the church as well. I was hoping to encounter someone from the family at the church, or someone who knew Ronaiah so I could gather some information. The address listed for the church actually takes one to the home of Titus Tuiasosopo, which is where Ronaiah has been staying.
The two-story home is located at the end of a cul-de-sac in Palmdale, about an hour north of Los Angeles. The home has a nice-sized backyard, and even includes a swimming pool with a water slide (fun!). When I arrived, TV trucks from every major local news channel Los Angeles were already set up. Reporters were filming reports, though nobody had any luck getting shots or comments from anyone living in the house.
There were three cars in the driveway: a Chevy Astro van, Cadillac, and Ford Explorer. Curtains covered every window in the front of the home, and other linens/blankets were used to cover windows in the back of the home. Though the family tried blacking out all windows for privacy purposes, a sign saying “Mahalo for removing your” sandals remained on the front door:
- Ronaiah Tuiasosopo
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has been hiding out at his parents’ home in Palmdale, Calif., since news broke on Wednesday that he allegedly created Lennay Kekua and duped the Notre Dame linebacker into having a relationship with a woman who didn’t exist.
Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, Ronaiah’s uncle, reportedly told The Associated Press that the family has hired an attorney and that his nephew may address the hoax. He says the family plans to hold a meeting to discuss how and when they would address matters.
“We want to do it right,” Peter Navy Tuiasosopo told the AP. “We’re just a family of faith. The family is holding up well. They’re holding up the way I would expect a family to. This is a storm.”
The AP says the family had a service at the Oasis Christian Church on Sunday, though Ronaiah was not in attendance.
See all our stories on the Manti Te’o hoax
Manti Te’o sat down with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap for his first interview since it was revealed on Wednesday that his supposed girlfriend who allegedly died of leukemia in September was a hoax.
The interview was not shown by ESPN, but Schaap reported on SportsCenter Friday evening that Te’o told him he was not convinced that Lennay Kekua was not real until Wednesday.
Schaap says Te’o told him that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to have been behind the Kekua fabrication the entire time, called and Twitter messaged him on Wednesday to apologize for running the whole scam.
Schaap says Te’o told him that he lied to his father, Brian, about his relationship with Kekua, which explains why some of the stories printed about Te’o’s relationship with Kekua that were sourced by Brian contained false information.
According to Schaap, Te’o, while in Hawaii over Christmas break, told his parents he was going out to meet Kekua on New Year’s in 2012. Kekua never showed but, Te’o, not wanting to get into a long discussion with his parents about it, told them he saw her.
Te’o denied having a role in the scam.
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.
Manti Te’os uncle calls Ronaiah Tuiasosopo a ‘liar’ who was trying to raise money for a leukemia foundation
Manti Te’o still has yet to come out and speak about the incident involving his fake girlfriend Lennay Kekua, but his great uncle Alema Te’o tried to shed some light on the situation on Thursday. During an interview with 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City, Alema described Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as a “shady character” who was trying to attach himself to Manti for either financial gain, publicity or both.
Alema says he first met Tuiasosopo in a hotel lobby in Los Angeles and instantly felt that there was something off about him. Alema Te’o runs a football camp in American Samoa, and he says Tuiasosopo was taking credit for many of the things that Alema had done with the program.
Alema said Tuiasosopo had a 9-year-old girl named Pookah with him at the time. He said Manti was “mesmerized” with Pookah, whom he had spoken to on the phone before and was allegedly the cousin of Lennay Kekua. In fact, Alema said Manti spoke to Pookah on the phone before while Kekua was still alive but was supposedly too sick to talk.
During their meeting, Alema says Tuiasosopo stood over Pookah with his hands on her shoulders, almost controlling what she was saying. He said it later turned out that Pookah was Ronaiah’s younger sister and that he was using her as a pawn in his elaborate scheme. A scheme, Alema says, that was put in place so that Tuiasosopo could gain notoriety for his leukemia research foundation.
The man who is allegedly behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax may have a history of making up fake tragedies. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who Deadspin fingered as the man behind the mythical Lennay Kekua character, has reportedly had stories about car accidents aside from the one that Kekua was supposedly involved in.
A report from US Weekly on Thursday cited an insider from the NBC television show “The Voice” who claims Tuiasosopo once auditioned to become a contestant on the show, which is a singing competition. Ronaiah reportedly had a dramatic story.
“He had this insane sob story before [he sang],” the source said. “It would make for great TV.”
Tuiasosopo reportedly told the producers of the show that he and his cousins, who were in a Christian band together, got into a “massive” car accident on their way to play a show at a youth conference in Nevada. He said that a truck crashed into their vehicle and sent them flipping across the freeway, adding that doctors initially feared one of the band members could be brain dead. However, they all ended up being fine.
Depending on when the audition took place, Tuiasosopo might have been telling the truth.
The original Deadspin report that first exposed the hoax stated that Tuiasosopo was in a car crash in March, a month before his supposed character — Lennay Kekua — was involved in one. A posting on Instagram by a woman claiming to be Tuiasosopo’s cousin supports the car accident story, as does a Facebook posting by Ronaiah’s father, Titus.
“2012 was a year to remember. Said farewell to some loved ones, my middle child graduated from high school, witnessed the marital union of several family & friends, my son & his band survived a horrific accident, we enjoyed an incredible season of growth @ my church & The Clete House won our league championship,” Titus wrote on Facebook Dec. 31, 2012.
USA Today confirmed with California Highway Patrol that Tuiasosopo was involved in a two-car crash on March 23. Titus reportedly kept people updated about his son and two nephews’ recovery from the crash via his Facebook page. He reportedly said his nephews were briefly in intensive care.
According to the insider, Tuiasosopo had to pass a background check and psych evaluation as part of the show’s standard procedure.
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