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.
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.
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.
Te'o's knowledge about the details of his girlfriend's life was often murky, including her majors in school, occupation and extent of her injuries after an alleged April 28 car accident with a drunk driver.
What he was absolutely clear about was how much time he spent in contact with her, especially while she was in the hospital recovering from the car accident, which led to the discovery of her leukemia.
"I talked to my girlfriend every single day," Te'o told Themel. "I slept on the phone with her every single day. When she was going through chemo, she would have all these pains and the doctors were saying they were trying to give her medicine to make her sleep. She still couldn't sleep. She would say, 'Just call my boyfriend and have him on the phone with me, and I can sleep.' I slept on the phone with her every single night."
He would spend eight hours a night with someone, somewhere, breathing on the other end, he told Thamel.
Te'o recounted how his girlfriend who was "on a machine" after being in a coma.
"We lost her, actually, twice. She flatlined twice. They revived her twice," he said. "It was just a trippy situation."
For a while Kekua was unable to talk and he described the nurse-deemed "miracle" of how Kekua's breathing would pick up when she heard his voice on the phone.
"There were lengthy, long telephone conversations. There was sleeping with the phone on connected to each other," Swarbrick said. "The issue of who it is, who's playing what role, what's real and what's not here is a more complex question than I can get into."
Perhaps one of the most touching displays of love from Kekua to Te'o, he told the writer, was the one-page letter she would write him on her iPad before each game. One of her siblings, often her twin brother Noa, would then read him the letter over the phone before sending it to him.
"She and I, man, we had this relationship where it was just amazing," Te'o told Thamel. "With all of that time on her hands in the hospital, she was never thinking about herself and what was hurting her. She was just always thinking about others. She went on and wrote a letter to me before every game. Things that she would want me to know."
When Kekua "died" in September 2012, the news came from her brother who texted Te'o from Kekua's phone number, he told Thamel. The brother then called Te'o to deliver the news.
"He was just crying and crying and crying," Te'o said. "I just had to calm him down. I was like, 'You have to speak clearly. I need to know what's going on.' That's when he told me, 'Lala is gone.' That's what they call her. They call her Lala."
"Catfish" movie director and actor Ariel Schulman told "Good Morning America" that he believes there may have been "a few other people duped by the fake Lennay character."
Te'o at first kept a low-profile after the news of the scandal broke. But he has since released a statement calling the situation "incredibly embarrassing" and granted an interview to ESPN. A
BC News' Katie Couric will conduct the first on-camera interview with Manti Te'o for her syndicated daytime talk show, "Katie," on Jan. 24 .
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