Manti Te’o's Uncle Suggests Ronaiah Tuiasosopo’s Hoax Was a Financial Con, Sensed Something Wrong With Tuiasosopo After Meeting Him in L.A.January 18, 2013 – 10:15 am by Chris Fedor
It was around 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday when Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was placed back into the news. This time the conversation wasn’t about Te’o being one of the best defensive players in college football, or being a Heisman hopeful or how his struggles in the National Championship game would affect his draft stock.
This time Te’o was in the news because it was reported that his dead girlfriend never really existed. Deadspin broke the story. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick held a press conference saying the Heisman Trophy finalist was the victim of a cruel hoax. While we are all still waiting for Manti Te’o to open up and share his side of the story, the first Te’o to speak up was his uncle in Utah last night.
Alema Te’o joined 1280 the Zone in Salt Lake City to talk about when he heard about the alleged girlfriend of Manti Te’o, if he felt other family members had any concerns about the fact that he had this relationship, when he found out about the hoax, whether he has spoken to Brian Te’o since this became public, the public having a hard time with the story given that Brian Te’o had said that Lennay Kekua came to visit in Hawaii, what he thinks wad the motivation of the hoax, if Brian Te’o was duped as well and whether he thinks Manti Te’o would be capable of being a part of this hoax.
When he heard about the alleged girlfriend of Manti Te’o:
“I had just heard spurts over the years, the last four years, since he was at Notre Dame. I had never really met the girl and didn’t think too much of it because he is in South Bend, I’m in Utah and we don’t usually cross paths a lot. My main focus was just trying to track him during his football career and find out how he was doing. I really never took any time to understand what he was doing in his social life.”
Did you hear any other family members voice any concern about the fact that he had this relationship give thy had never seen her before?
“No, because when I would get together with Brian and the family it was usually because of the Poly Camp and Brian was our head guy down there in Hawaii, so when we’d get together all of our intention was based on what we were doing at that time. The camp, small talk about Manti and how he was doing, but nothing in depth in terms of his relationships.”
When did you find out about the hoax?
“I was driving home from work last night and I turned on the radio and there it was. I heard it and, obviously, it threw me through a loop, and I had to go home and take a look on TV and watch ESPN and kind of see what kind of information was out there. And then I just texted Brian and let him know, ‘Hey, we’re here. We’re here to support you and let me know if there is anything we can do.’ That was the extent of it. I just found out last night through different media outlets and through different family members that have called me and informed me that was going on.”
Whether he has spoken to Brian Te’o:
“Yeah I did. We spoke. We spoke last night about this whole ordeal and he was very disappointed and distraught about this whole ordeal, and obviously Manti being a high-profile athlete and having all the accolades and whatnot in terms of football, and then to have this hoax come out like that, it was a blow to the family. They were really disappointed on this whole deal. I felt for them. I felt the pain but we just have to move on. He was in awe of this whole deal. We had to pinch ourself that we were actually having to talk about this kind of stuff with Manti. The family was really disappointed, not necessarily disappointed in Manti, but they felt for him. Everyone was very concerned about his mental state and how he is feeling right now. And it’s sad to believe that someone would try to go out of there way to sabotage his character, what he stood for in terms of the game of football, for his family and the state of Hawaii.”
On the story being tough to believe because Brian Te’o has said in the past that the girlfriend came to Hawaii a few times and the two met:
“I can’t help but believe that was all part of it. The gentleman in question right now, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, I believe that it was an elaborate plan and that he actually had a girl staged to be Lennay (Kekua) and sent her out there or made arrangements that she could be out there. I believe that. I wouldn’t put it past this guy to do that. (Host: What do you know about him as a person? Have you met him before?) Oh yes. I have met this gentleman before. I first met this guy going down to the USC game, going down to see Manti play. We went to the hotel to spend some time with him. I was the first one to get there, so when I went downstairs to meet up with Manti, Ronaiah was in there. Now, I didn’t know who he was; he was with a young girl about the age of 9 and he introduced himself to me and the rest of the family showed up.”
On meeting Ronaiah Tuiasosopo:
“He introduced himself as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. He said he was a representative from the AIGA Foundation and he did all of these fundraisers for Leukemia and was doing some things currently to help raise money on behalf of Lennay, this so-called Manti’s girlfriend. During the course of that conversation, there were several things that he pointed out that raised a bunch of red flags to me. Number one, he made a comment that he was with Troy Polamalu, the Troy Polamalu Foundation, doing a football camp, and he was helping with the music side and a bunch of other things which was not true. (Host: How do you know that was not true?) I know that wasn’t true because I was in charge of Troy’s camp. He told me that he stayed at the hotel and he was in on all the planning, which was not true because I conducted all of the meetings. I was the guy who looked over the entire camp. In my mind I’m saying, ‘No you didn’t, because you couldn’t have done anything with football because I was the guy with football.’”
Why did you just blow him up right then and there?
“Knowing what I know now, I wish I would’ve blown that guy up right then and there, but Manti seemed to be mesmerized by this young girl. He brought the young girl and this young girl, they called her Pookah. (Host: The 9-year-old?) The 9-year-old girl and, see now, this is where it gets a little freaky to me. (Manti) said this is the 9-year-old girl that was in conversations with him when he would be speaking to Lennay on the phone. So when she would get tired and he would get on the phone with this little girl, he would be talking to this Pookah girl. This shows the character of this guy Ronaiah. He introduces her as a cousin. In actuality, this girl is his little sister. (Host: So Ronaiah had introduced his own little sister as Lennay Kekua’s cousin? So this is a cousin that was somehow related to this fictional girlfriend and got on the phone? OK.) At least that’s what we assume, because who knows, that could’ve even been the girl he was talking to on the phone. But he introduced her as his cousin. So Manti sees this little girl and Ronaiah starts bringing up this stuff about Lennay and he’s fixated on this girl, making sure she’s comfortable, taking good care of her and trying to attend to her needs because it was a connection between him and Lennay.”
At this point there are some red flags. He had been talking about, this is what Lennay Kekua would want as far as the Leukemia Foundation and all that stuff?
“Exactly. He said they were having a big fundraiser. He was with the AIGA Foundation and they were putting together a Leukemia fundraiser to raise money for Leukemia victims. One of the things that he talked about was he said there was this young man that was a friend of Lennay’s that couldn’t finish school at Stanford because he didn’t have enough money so, ‘We really want to rally together and make a lot of money so that we can cover the cost of this guy’s education,’ and on and on and on. All the while this guy is talking about this and I’m saying to myself, ‘This guy is just trying to get close to Manti so that he can get an endorsement or plant some seeds for some things for the future or get Manti to come to the events so it will boost up any type of revenue that they could get,’ and I had a bad feeling about this guy. And again, I’m going to say his name over and over again, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a representative of the AIGA Foundation, and he made it clear that they were there to help raise money for a friend of Lennay’s that was struggling in college. In actuality there was no event going on at that time.”
Was Brian duped as well?
“Oh most definitely. He did talk to someone on the phone who portrayed themself as Lennay. (Host: Then you told me that he talked to Koa, the brother of Lennay as well?) This guy calls and sets himself up to be Koa, the brother, and is crying over the phone and telling Brian that they lost their sister. They’re now mourning the death of this gal. It was one thing after another and at the time it was just horrible.”
Do you think Manti would be capable of participating in this kind of hoax?
“Absolutely not. No doubt in my mind he was not involved in this willingly or knowingly.”