Manti Te'o Hoax: Everything We Know About Alleged Scam

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJanuary 17, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 07:  Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish warms up prior to playing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Up until this point, we thought we knew Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te'o.

But after's report about an alleged hoax on Wednesday involving his deceased girlfriend, everything has changed.

Te'o not only had a remarkable season on the field for the Fighting Irish this season, but he also boasted an inspirational story. 

What we do know for sure is that his grandmother, Annette Santiago, died at 72 years of age on Sept. 11, 2012, and Te'o went on to rack up 12 tackles in Notre Dame's following game against Michigan State on Sept. 15, leading the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 upset over the Spartans.

But Te'o allegedly also had a girlfriend named Lennay Kekua who allegedly died on Sept. 11 after she was diagnosed with leukemia following a car accident. Except, Deadspin reported that there was no record of a woman named Lennay Kekua, or a record of her dying at all, at any point.

Te'o and his parents talked to numerous publications throughout the season about Kekua, but Te'o's father, Brian, said he never met her, according to the Deadspin report. 

After the Deadspin report broke, Te'o issued a statement.

It read, via Sporting News:

This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick.

I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL draft.

According to the South Bend Tribune, via the Deadspin report, Te'o met Kekua on Nov. 28, 2009, after Notre Dame's 45-38 loss to Stanford in Palo Alto. But, according to Deadspin, Te'o actually met Kekua on Twitter on Oct. 10, 2011.

He reportedly messaged back and forth with the Twitter handle @lovalovaloveYOU, which turned into @LennayKay, which later turned into @LoveMSMK.

The photos of "Kekua" that popped up on numerous publications and newscasts were found on her Twitter account. But the pictures on her Twitter account were actually lifted from another woman's Facebook profile, according to Deadspin.

That woman, whom Deadspin calls "Reba" to protect her identity, reportedly sent those Facebook pictures to a high school classmate. After that, they were placed on Kekua's Twitter profile.

The classmate is allegedly a 22-year-old named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who played quarterback for Paraclete High and has since become a religious musician.

Te'o and Tuiasosopo know each other, according to Deadspin. A woman labeled "Frieda" said the two were "family friends," per the report.

Another item of significance is this: Tuiasosopo was in a car accident a month before Kekua's alleged accident, as pointed out by Deadspin.

Several Deadspin sources have come forward and said Tuiasosopo was responsible for creating Lennay Kekua and taking Te'o for a ride.

But a friend of Tuiasosopo's reportedly told Deadspin that he was "80 percent sure" that Te'o was working with Tuiasosopo to create the hoax. This is primarily because there were a lot of holes in Tuiasosopo's alleged scam and the friend couldn't believe Te'o didn't pick up on them.

Notre Dame responded to the Deadspin report on Wednesday, via its Facebook page:

On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.

Dennis Brown
University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President

What is a bit perplexing is that Te'o said that he talked to Kekua on the phone. In fact, ESPN reported in November 2012 that Te'o said they would fall asleep on the phone. 

Who was Te'o talking to on the phone if he was indeed talking to someone? 

Deadspin's report figures to only be the tip of the iceberg in what has become a bizarre story. More details will inevitably be uncovered moving forward.


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