Ronaiah Tuiasosopo has admitted that he duped Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o into believing he was carrying on a relationship with a fictional USC student who later died on the same day as Te’o’s grandmother.
Tuiasosopo was identified in an expose from Deadspin as the orchestrator of the prank, which blew up this week. Te’o spoke often during the college football season about his deceased girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, which became a major plot line in the lead-up to the team’s appearance in the BCS Championship game.
Now a friend of Tuiasosopo has confirmed what the Deadspin article hinted at — that Tuiasosopo was the source of the prank.
“The friend, a woman in her mid-20s, agreed to be interviewed under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family’s safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated. In the interview, she did allow for her voice to be recorded.
“She says Tuiasosopo gave her the tearful confession and account of how he played, what he said was at first a game, on the unsuspecting Te’o. And, she says, he told her that it wasn’t the first time he had done it.”
She also confirmed what many people have begun to doubt, that Manti Te’o knew nothing about the girlfriend hoax.
“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.’
“It’s not only Manti, but he was telling me that it’s a lot of other people they had done this to.”
Notre Dame has issued a statement in support of Manti Te’o, and the school’s athletic director Jack Swarbuck said Te’o was a victim in the hoax.
Whether Manti Te’o was in on the hoax to begin with, it appears he may have continued lying after he knew Kekua was fake. ESPN found that he still referenced his dead girlfriend even after learning on December 6 that she was fake.