Since the story broke on Wednesday, the defense of Manti Te’o regarding the dead girlfriend hoax he’s wrapped up in, was that he –like everyone else– had no idea the woman wasn’t real until just recently. Many have begun jabbing holes in that story, but a friend of the man widely reported to have been behind the hoax has come forward saying Ronaiah Tuiasosopo indeed tricked Te’o without the linebacker ever knowing about it.
And Te’o isn’t the only one this has happened to.
The woman wished to not be identified, but said Te’o had nothing to do with the hoax and that Tuiasosopo admitted to duping the Heisman finalist in a tearful confession at his church.
“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,” said the woman. “He was crying, he was literally crying, he’s like ‘I know, I know what I have to do.’”
In addition to Manti Te’o, the woman said Tuiasosopo has done this before.
Outside The Lines did an investigation into the matter, and in addition to interviewing the woman, they sought out others who claim they’ve also been tricked by Tuiasosopo. J.R. Vaosa and Celeste Tuioti-Mariner both said their cousin began an online relationship with a woman who turned out to be Tuiasosopo.
“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.
“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. Then I thought of my cousin — that this has to be the same person.”
The woman Outside The Lines spoke to, says she fears what Tuiasosopo might do to himself now that all the blame in the hoax is going to fall on him and him alone.
“I (still) am worried for him (Ronaiah), not just him and his family but I know that you can’t judge people like that and that’s why I continue to just encourage (him) to come out and tell the truth,” she said.
The Outside The Lines piece was researched and reported by longtime ESPN journalist Shelley Smith.