For the past thirty-six hours, the Te’o family has remained relatively quiet as the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend scandal has grown. That changed this afternoon when Manti’s uncle, Alema Te’o, appeared on Salt Lake City’s 1280/97.5 the Zone on the Scotty G. and Riley Jensen show. According to the station Alema Te’o is Manti Te’o’s uncle and lives in Utah where he runs the All-Poly football camp. Alema’s guest spot on the show lasted over 33 minutes and I’d encourage all of you to go listen to the interview in its entirety as it’s loaded with detail.
In particular Alema took aim at Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a man he believes Manti met for the first time at this year’s USC game, saying, “Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing, there’s no doubt in my mind.” Later, he continued, “He lied every step of the way.” Furthermore, Alama said, “This isn’t the first time he’s done this.” He continued, “Lie after lie after lie, there’s no way in the world this guy can be trusted. Ronaiah, if you’re listening to me bud, you’re a liar and a dishonest man.”
Alema said he first met Tuisasosopo at the team hotel at this year’s USC game and that Tuiasosopo was there with a young girl “about the age of nine.” Tuisasosopo introduced himself as a leukemia fundraiser. “He said he was currently raising money on behalf of Lennay (Manti’s deceased girlfriend).” At the time Tuiasosopo claimed to be working with the Troy Polamalu football camp, a role that Alema knew he didn’t actually have.
“I know that wasn’t true,” said Alema, “because I was in charge of Troy’s camp.”
“I smelled him as a bad rat,” Alema said.
According to Alema, the fake Lennay talked with Te’o’s parents on the phone multiple times. And for the first time, Alema offered some indication of why Tuiasosopo might want to fake this relationship, saying he believed Tuiasosopo’s motive was to get close to Te’o to fraudulently raise money through him that Ronaiah could then pocket himself. Indeed, according to Alema, on that very day Tuiasosopo claimed to be raising money for yet another individual, a Stanford student who was a friend of Lennay’s, who also had leukemia.
Alema said Manti was “mesmerized by the nine-year old girl.” Tuiasosopo introduced, the girl, named Pookah, as a cousin, but according to Alema the little girl was actually Tuiasosopo’s sister. (He didn’t explain how he knew that she was really his sister). Manti frequently talked to the little girl on the phone when he talked to the woman who pretended to be his girlfriend. “(She) was a connection between him an Lennay.”
Alema’s report that a young girl named Pookah was at the USC game squares with a report from earlier today from TMZ, that Tuiasosopo attended the USC game with a young girl named Pookah. TMZ has photos of the two which you can read about here.
Here is that photo of Tuiasosopo and Pookah that was obtained by TMZ.
How much of a mastermind did Alema believe Tuiasosopo was?
Alema even went so far as to say it wouldn’t surprise him if Ronaiah hired a woman to play the role of Lennay Kekua, Te’o’s nonexistent girlfriend. “I don’t feel it’s beyond him to hire somebody or bring somebody to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal” he said.
“I feel bad that Manti was duped into this,” Alema Te’o said, “Without a shadow of a doubt, there is no way i the world he could do this.”
Asked what Manti’s present mindstate is, Alema replied, “He’s upset, he’s not in a good place.” He also said that he believed Te’o would speak “real soon.”
I’d encourage all of you to go listen to this interview, as its the first real defense offered by anyone associated with Manti Te’o. And after the release of SI’s interview transcripts today, Te’o needs a defense. Badly.
Does any of this make perfect sense? No. But it’s the first time anyone from Te’o’s family is speaking out to any substantial degree about these ridiculous shenanigans.
If possible, this story just got even crazier.