Skip to content

Truth continues to trickle out in Te’o saga

Jan 25, 2013, 7:37 PM EST

Te'o helmet Getty Images

We have likely heard the last words from Manti Te’o and his family about the hoax that started as a sports story and has since turned into a cultural phenomenon. With the story moving from websites like ESPN to pop culture locales like TMZ, Te’o’s appearance yesterday on Katie, former CBS news anchor Katie Couric’s daytime talk show, acknowledged that Te’o and his representatives needed to do the ugly PR work needed to keep the All-American linebacker mainly in the football world, separating himself from characters like NBA player Kris Humphries, who is now more associated with his tabloid marriage and divorce proceedings with reality TV star Kim Kardashian than his exploits on the basketball court.

But in the story that will not die, the hoax surrounding fictional girlfriend Lennay Kekua, the brainchild of 22-year-old Southern California native Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, has taken another set of twists and turns.

Yesterday, a high-powered Los Angeles lawyer said to be representing Tuiasosopo, claimed that Ronaiah was the voice behind the phone calls exchanged between Te’o and what was thought to be Kekua, an astounding feat of subterfuge considering the hundreds of hours Te’o and his supposed long-distance girlfriend spent talking.

While many were once again quick to jump on Te’o — this time for his ability to be duped by a man said to be impersonating a female — Couric played audio of three voicemails left on Te’o’s phone, and just about anyone being honest with themselves heard the voice of a young woman.

The audio was so compelling that ABC News’ Matt Gutman spoke with audio experts that said it was impossible that those recordings featured a man’s voice. And in a New York Post report from Friday, the focus has now shifted away from Ronaiah Tuiasosopo to his female cousin Tino Tuiasosopo, who the post reports is the real voice of Lennay Kekua.

Hoax mastermind Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s pretty young cousin played the part of “Lennay Kekua,” the fake girlfriend he created, The Post has learned.

Tino Tuiasosopo convinced the Notre Dame grid star that she was the real deal, calling him at school, telling him she loved him and even sobbing hysterically when another girl answered his phone, several of the woman’s relatives said yesterday.

“Tino is the girl that Manti has been talking to all these months,” said a Tuiasosopo cousin.

The revelation shoots down claims by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s attorney, Milton Grimes, that Ronaiah altered his masculine voice to play the part of the chirpy, flirty Kekua.

The rest of the Post story reveals some details that make it seem like we’ve finally stumbled upon the truth behind the curious question of who Te’o was talking to for all those hours.

Consider:

Te’o had told ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap the down-to-the-details information about who he thought Lennay Kekua was, and they match up quite closely with Tino Tuiasosopo. Te’o said Kekua worked for her father’s construction company. The Post reports that Tino Tuiasosopo works for her father’s construction company in American Samoa.

In Schaap’s interview, Te’o pointed to the end of Lennay’s relationship with her previous boyfriend as the time his relationship blossomed with Lennay. The Post reports that Tino “assumed her role in the Te’o ruse after she was dumped from a long distance relationship with another man.”

“She said it was OK, because she was doing better. She said she was talking to another person [and] he plays football for Notre Dame — number 5, Manti,” a source told The Post.

In other news related to the story, the Associated Press has obtained an eight-page letter sent from Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins to the school’s Board of Trustees, detailing the school’s handling of their investigation into the hoax.

With a detailed outline of the university’s actions and a four-page explanation to the trustees, Jenkins told the board that everything they uncovered has largely been in line with what Te’o told school officials in late December.

“We did our best to get to the truth in extraordinary circumstances, be good stewards of the interests of the university and its good name and – as we do in all things – to make the well-being of our students one of our very highest priorities,” Jenkins concluded in his letter.

Some of the timeline Notre Dame outlined is well known, including that its star linebacker disclosed the scam to his coaches the day after Christmas and it remained unknown to the public until Deadspin.com broke the story on Jan. 16, long after the Fighting Irish lost the BCS championship to Alabama on Jan. 7.

Jenkins wrote that Notre Dame officials talked in the hours after hearing from Te’o on Dec. 26 and agreed there was no indication of a crime or student conduct code violation. Athletic director Jack Swarbrick spoke with Te’o the next day, and on Dec. 28 the school concluded there were no indications of an NCAA rules violation, which could have put Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season in jeopardy.

The school then made moves to find out who was behind the hoax, thereby protecting Te’o and itself.

“For the first couple of days after receiving the news from Manti, there was considerable confusion and we simply did not know what there was to disclose,” Jenkins wrote.

On Jan. 2, after several days of internal discussion and a week after Te’o’s disclosure, Notre Dame retained Stroz Friedberg, a New York computer forensics firm to investigate the case and whether any other football players had been targeted.

That the university ended up hiring one of the leading firms in digital forensics and cybercrimes should end any of the outrage that emanated from certain media outlets, who characterized the investigation as something akin to keystone cops, with criticism coming rather loudly from those who questioned the tactics used by the independent investigators.

Yet it took just two days for the investigators to come to the conclusion that Te’o was indeed the victim of the hoax, and that it presented no threat to the school. Combine that with the fact that Te’o had hired Creative Artists Agency to represent him, and Jenkins told the board the school “concluded that this matter was personal to Manti.”

 

 

 

 

Latest Posts
  1. Meet Mike Sanford

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:49 AM EST

    BSU Practice BSU Practice

    With Notre Dame just one season into Mike Denbrock’s tenure as offensive coordinator, Brian Kelly didn’t look like he was in the market for a new offensive coordinator. But in Mike Sanford, Kelly (and Denbrock) found a coach worth making room for.

  2. Meet Todd Lyght

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:32 AM EST

    Todd Lyght AP

    In hiring defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, Brian Kelly decided to bring back to the program one of the most talented players of the Lou Holtz era. While his resume may be short as a coach, one listen to Lyght reveals a man whose DNA is football, with coaching taking root after a world-class career.

  3. Meet Autry Denson

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:49 AM EST

    Autry Denson AP

    Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher is now in charge of coaching the position. Autry Denson’s return to South Bend comes at the perfect time, with Brian Kelly looking to find the right coach and personality to replace Tony Alford on the coaching staff.

  4. Meet Keith Gilmore

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:20 AM EST

    Keith Gilmore

    Notre Dame’s new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore was introduced yesterday, a reunion for Gilmore with former boss Brian Kelly and former college teammates Brian VanGorder and Paul Longo.

  5. Notre Dame formalizes coaching staff shakeup

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:52 AM EST

    Purdue v Notre Dame Getty Images

    After weeks of speculation, Brian Kelly has announced his coaching staff for the 2015 season. The result is four new assistants, a few new assignments and the homecoming of a handful of former Irish stars.

  6. Mailbag: Sanford, running game, the option and getting to 85

    Mar 1, 2015, 7:47 PM EST

    Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma

    Before Brian Kelly introduces us to his new coaching staff tomorrow, let’s finish the mailbag. More here on what to expect from Mike Sanford, “committing” to the run, and stopping the option.

  7. Mailbag: Spring football, position changes and feeding the trolls

    Feb 28, 2015, 2:48 PM EST

    Joe Schmidt Joe Schmidt

    Well crew, I’ve gotta say… I’m a little underwhelmed by the mailbag question. And in the 150+ comments of people screaming at each other about mostly stupid stuff, I think I speak for everybody when I say:

  8. RIP Father Ted

    Feb 27, 2015, 12:40 PM EST

    Theodore Hesburgh

    Former Notre Dame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., died Thursday night on campus. Father Ted was 97. He said his final mass on Thursday, the day he passed away.

  9. Spring Solutions: Secondary

    Feb 26, 2015, 3:24 PM EST

    Matthias Farley

    Gone are Cody Riggs and Austin Collinsworth. Returning is a safety position that’s struggled, another transfer, a young cornerback on the rise, and (hopefully) an exiled potential star.

    Welcome to the Notre Dame secondary. New coaching, same scheme, different players, and one of 2015’s great unknowns.

  10. Mailbag: Now open

    Feb 25, 2015, 2:34 PM EST

    New Mailbox

    As we get a few extra weeks to prep for spring practice, let’s open the mailbag.

  11. Spring solutions: Wide receivers

    Feb 24, 2015, 6:56 PM EST

    William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge

    A position that looked like a huge question mark entering the 2014 season ended the year with an embarrassment of riches. After watching Will Fuller emerge with a record-setting sophomore season, the loss of DaVaris Daniels and departure of TJ Jones didn’t do anything to slow the Irish passing game down.

  12. All signs (still) point to Keith Gilmore as defensive line coach

    Feb 24, 2015, 1:34 PM EST

    Keith Gilmore

    None of Notre Dame’s coaching changes are official yet. But more arrows point to North Carolina defensive line coach Keith Gilmore joining the Irish staff in the same role.

  13. Spring solutions: Offensive Line

    Feb 23, 2015, 12:43 AM EST

    Notre Dame v Syracuse Notre Dame v Syracuse

    There might not be a deeper unit on the roster than the offensive line. After a lack of depth made it nearly impossible to practice at full speed heading into the 2012 BCS title game, Notre Dame enters the 2015 season with a two-deep most teams would pay for.

  14. Notre Dame moves back start of spring practice

    Feb 20, 2015, 10:48 AM EST

    C.J. Prosise C.J. Prosise

    Whether it’s the Siberian Express rolling through most of the country (sorry, guys) or the grand reshuffling taking place on Brian Kelly’s coaching staff, Notre Dame announced a delay in the kickoff of spring practice.

  15. Spring solutions: Tight ends

    Feb 19, 2015, 11:44 AM EST

    Notre Dame v Arizona State Getty Images

    After an incredibly impressive run at the position, Notre Dame enters spring practice with nothing but question marks at tight end. After Brian Kelly watched Kyle Rudolph, Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and now Ben Koyack churn through his program, he’ll spend spring trying to figure out what exactly he has at the position.

  16. With smoke circling Gilmore and Denson, coaching staff coming into focus

    Feb 18, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    Autry Denson AP

    On Tuesday, a flurry of reports had Brian Kelly focusing in on the final pieces of his reshuffled coaching staff. They include two likely additions, one transition, and a position shift.

  17. Notre Dame announces graduate transfer of Avery Sebastian

    Feb 18, 2015, 11:18 AM EST

    Mike Jensen, Avery Sebastian Mike Jensen, Avery Sebastian

    A few days after safety Avery Sebastian announced his intentions, Notre Dame made the commitment and graduate transfer of the former Cal safety official. Sebastian will enroll in graduate school and join the team in June.

  18. Spring solutions: Running backs

    Feb 17, 2015, 4:12 PM EST

    Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma

    After missing out on a running back in the 2014 recruiting cycle, a once crowded depth chart now only features Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. Two backs that once worried about having to find snaps will now have all the work they could ever want, with the majority of spring spent doing everything they can to stay healthy.

  19. Spring solutions: Quarterbacks

    Feb 16, 2015, 2:20 PM EST

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    One of the most impressive statistical seasons in school history was flushed down the toilet when Everett Golson could not stop turning the football over. With fumbles, poor decision-making and some plain bad luck plaguing Golson’s otherwise exceptional season, Brian Kelly chose Malik Zaire to be his starter for the Music City Bowl.

  20. Mailbag: What to expect from the defense?

    Feb 16, 2015, 8:45 AM EST

    Brian Van Gorder Brian Van Gorder

    Finishing up a holiday weekend with part three of the mailbag.