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Dr. Saturday

Manti Te’o's uncle says money and notoriety fueled the hoax

(USA Today Sports Images)

As the strange tale of Manti Te’o’s fake/dead girlfriend continues to play out, the Te’o family is starting to point fingers at Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as the mastermind of an elaborate hoax designed to align himself with Te’o for notoriety and ultimately money.

Alema Te’o, Manti Te'o's uncle, did an extensive radio interview with 1280 The Zone in Salt Lake City on Thursday evening and explained his meeting with Tuiasosopo and the bad feeling he got from listening to his stories.

Alema Te’o said Tuiasosopo talked extensively about Lennay Kekua, the woman Manti Te’o came to know as his girlfriend, and told the Te’o family he was trying to raise money for a friend of hers who also had leukemia and attended Stanford. According to Alema Te’o, Tuiasosopo made the monetary request seems as if it was Kekua’s dying wish. Kekua died on Sept. 12 following a short battle with leukemia. The disease was discovered after Kekua had been injured in a car accident with a drunk driver.

Of course, unbeknownst to Manti Te'o at the time, all of this was made up.

Alema Te’o also said Tuiasosopo kept talking about a charity event for his foundation and Alema Te’o believed Tuiasosopo was trying to line Manti Te’o up as a major supporter.

"Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing, he misrepresented whatever program that he was trying to get across to Manti, and shoot, he lied every step of the way,” Alema Te’o told the radio station. “I don’t feel it’s beyond him to hire somebody or bring somebody in to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal."

However, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told media Wednesday that the university’s independent investigation revealed no attempts to extort or obtain money from Manti Te’o or his family.

“Nothing in our investigation revealed an ask [for money] which had been made,” Swarbrick said. “We're sensitive to the fact that one might be forthcoming in the future, and that's one of the things that impacted considerations of how to proceed.”

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (Deadspin)Alema Te’o said he met Tuiasosopo in the lobby of a Los Angeles hotel following Notre Dame’s win over USC on Nov. 24. During the meeting, Tuiasosopo told Alema Te’o that he had been running entertainment for Troy Polamalu’s football camp. The story immediately piqued Alema Te’o’s interest because not only did he know the camp, he was the camp director.

“He said he was at the hotel, doing entertainment, doing this, doing that … it wasn’t true,” Alema Te’o said. “I was thinking in my mind, ‘no, you didn’t.’

"If he’s telling me that he was doing my job, then where the hell was I?"

Alema Te’o told Manti Te’o and Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, about the incident and the family immediately cut ties with Tuiasosopo.

On Dec. 6, Manti Te’o received a call from Leenay Kekua, the woman he thought was his deceased girlfriend, trying to explain that she hadn't died and trying to restart the relationship.

It is widely believed that Tuiasosopo made Kekua up, created a fake family for her and ultimately killed her off.

While Alema Te’o is the first member of the Te’o family to speak about this situation, most of what he says is speculative. We won’t get the full story until we hear from Manti Te’o, which Swarbrick said the university is encouraging. However, no definitive date for a press conference has been set. And the longer Te’o waits to speak, the more innuendo and speculation about his involvement in the hoax continues to swirl.

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