Records show that Manti Te'o called his fake girlfriend over 1,000 times and spent more than 500 hours thinking he was talking to "her." But it turns out that all those hours were spent talking to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, whose lawyer admits the alleged mastermind behind the fake-girlfriend hoax was disguising his own voice the whole time. The New York Daily News's Nancy Dillon and Larry McShane report:
The Heisman Trophy finalist "thought it was a female he was talking with," lawyer Milton Grimes acknowledged to the Daily News. “It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”
The mass of phone calls were first reported Wednesday by ESPN's Jeremy Schaap:
Te'o made and received more than 1,000 calls totaling more than 500 hours in length from the same number in the 661 area code. The 661 area code covers Lancaster, which is part of Los Angeles County. The source told Schaap that Te'o believed the 661 phone number in question was Kekua's.
Of these calls, 110 were more than 60 minutes in length, including several that were several hundred minutes long.
We already met the face behind the non-existent Lennay Kekua, but Te'o had always held that he didn't discover the hoax until he got a phone call. Now, even if Te'o is a chatterbox, and if Tuiasosopo's lawyer is telling the truth, that's still makes for a lot of hours that the Notre Dame star bought in to a man disguising his voice as that of a female Stanford graduate in suffering health. But to give you an idea of Tuiasosopo's voice, here's a clip of him singing with that falsetto that earned him a questionable try-out for NBC's The Voice:
"This wasn’t a prank to make fun," said Grimes, the lawyer. "It was establishing a communication with someone. ... It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship." The "troubled existence" line may hint at a possible defense if Te'o presses charges, there has been no indication of actually criminal fraud to come out of the scandal just yet, and Grimes did not elaborate on what kind of "relationship" Tuiasosopo was seeking. As Deadspin reported, Te'o wasn't the first man Tuiasosopo contacted under the fake-girlfriend guise. And Grimes's lack of specificity won't exactly squash those gay rumors swirling around Te'o.
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"He’s torn by this," Grimes said of Tuiasosopo. "He didn’t mean for anyone to be hurt. Anything that he has done, he has apologized to those he could apologize to."
Tuiasosopo has yet to speak out publicly — although he apparently apologized to Te'o online — but his uncle says Tuiasosopo may tell his side of the story soon. For his part, Te'o is expected to be pressed hard by Katie Couric in an interview to be broadcast on her syndicated talk show this afternoon.