Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged ringleader behind the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, reportedly admitted to a church friend in December to having duped the Notre Dame linebacker.
ESPN interviewed the friend to whom Tuiasosopo confessed. That friend is described as a “woman in her mid-20s” who is “fearful for her family’s safety.”
The woman said Tuiasosopo and another female had conned others in the past. Tuiasosopo admitted his female cousin spoke to Te’o over the phone as “Lennay Kekua.” Tuiasosopo may have allegedly spoken to Te’o as Kekua as well.
“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 said. “He was crying, he was literally crying, he’s like ‘I know, I know what I have to do.'”
ESPN also interviewed two cousins–J.R. Vaosa, 28, of Torrance, Calif., and Celeste Tuioti-Mariner, 21, of Whittier–familiar with Tuiasosopo. Their cousin had been duped by Tuiasosopo in 2008 under similar circumstances with an online girlfriend by the same name–Lennay Kekua.
This football season, the cousins immediately thought Te’o may have been conned when they heard the name of Te’o’s deceased girlfriend was “Lennay Kekua.”
Then this fall, Vaosa and Tuioti-Mariner saw the story of Te’o’s dying girlfriend.
“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.”