Manti Te'o Was One of Several Duped in Hoax

PHOTO: Manti Teo

The man who allegedly orchestrated the Lennay Kukua hoax on Manti Te'o may have used the character to dupe other prominent members of the community, a source told ABC News.

Tessi Toluta'u, a Polynesian beauty queen, said the fake Lennay Kekua reached out to her in 2008 about entering pageants. Although Toluta'u said she believed Kekua may have fabricated some details about her life, she still believed her to be real and kept in touch with her for a period of several months.

When visiting Los Angeles in 2009, Toluta'u was supposed to meet Lennay, however she failed to appear. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who Te'o said confessed to the hoax, met Toluta'u instead.

They went to a Polynesian dance practice and lunch, and that was the end of their correspondence, she said.

"[It's a] sick joke that went way too far," she said.

Toluta'u said she believes Te'o was one of four or five people who were duped into believing Kekua was real.

The script for the elaborate hoax played on Te'o, from a horrific car accident to a leukemia diagnosis, according to reports, had parallels to the alleged perpetrator's life.

In December, three months after the fictional Kekua was killed off, the alleged orchestrator of the hoax, Tuiasoposo, called Te'o to confess it was all a sham, the Notre Dame football star told ESPN.

Also on the line, he said, was Kekua, the woman whom he spent hours talking to on the phone and once called the love of his life.

"They said, 'It's Lennay'. And so we carried on that conversation and I just got mad. And I just went on a rampage," Te'o said.

The woman, whose voice he fell asleep to at night on the phone, may have been a fabrication, but the alleged script used to fool Te'o seemed to mirror Tuiasoposo's reality.

Click here for a who's who in the Manti Te'o case

Tuiasoposo's father posted on Facebook that his son and his band survived a severe car accident last March.

And at the same time the fake Kekua was diagnosed with leukemia, Tuiasoposo's cousin, Jazmine Lutu, also in her early 20s, was battling the disease, USA Today reported.

Watch Katie Couric's interview with Manti Te'o and his parents Thursday, Jan. 24. Check your local listings or click here for online station finder.

The sophistication and the depth of the hoax, which was publicly unraveled last week, left many people with questions that are only beginning to be answered.

Te'o received phone calls, text messages and letters before every football game from his "girlfriend." He was in contact with her family, including a twin brother, a second brother, sister and parents. He called often to check in with them, just as he did with his own family. And "Kekua" kept in contact with Te'o's friends and family, and teammates spoke to her on the phone.

"There are a remarkable number of characters involved. We don't know how many people they represent," Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference this week. "There are male and female characters, brothers, cousins, mother, and we don't know if it's two people playing multiple characters or multiple people."

"It goes to the sophistication of this, that there are all these sort of independent pieces that reinforce elements of the story all the way through," he said.

One of Te'o's teammates who asked not to be identified told ABC News that it was normal for Te'o to pass his phone around to teammates when he was on the line with "Lennay" so they could say hello to her.

"I talked to her," this teammate said. "I wasn't suspicious."

When Te'o got the call telling him that Lennay had died last fall, he was in the locker room, the teammate said.

"He got real emotional, crying," the teammate said. "He's an emotional guy."

The teammate said he thinks Te'o genuinely got hoaxed. The fact that Te'o talked about meeting her and touching her hand -- when really he only "met" her on the Internet -- makes this teammate think that he was not completely telling the truth about his relationship.

"I think he was just embarrassed about it, the whole Internet thing," the teammate said. The player said he hasn't talked to Te'o since this story broke.

In response to Te'o's comments that the investigators hired by the school never interviewed him, just asked for a picture and any evidence he had, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown provides the following statement:

"Notre Dame engaged with a highly regarded investigative firm to, first and foremost, determine who had perpetrated what by all appearances was a hoax. The 'catfish' scheme and those responsible for it were discovered so quickly that there was no need for an interview with Manti - though that would have been the next step had nothing turned up. The investigators' work has been verified by media reports and the confession this week of the principal participant."

Brown said that the investigators started their work on Jan. 2 and on Jan. 4 and the school received an oral report with the information on the "catfish" scheme and the perpetrators.

Depth of Deception

A newly released transcript of Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel's Sept. 23 interview with Te'o gives a hint at the staggering depth of the deception.

Te'o told Thamel that he'd been told Lennay Kekua's real name was Melelengei, but since no one could pronounce it properly it was shortened to Lennay. But her family nicknamed her Lala, he said.

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