The alleged mastermind behind the elaborate Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax reportedly used a "falsetto voice" to impersonate the football player's fake girlfriend over the phone.
Describing yet another strange twist to an already convoluted story, the New York Daily News reported on Thursday that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- previously identified as the perpetrator of the elaborate hoax -- posed as Te'o's supposed girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, during "all-night phone calls" with the Notre Dame linebacker.
The hoaxer's lawyer reportedly told the paper that Tuiasosopo adopted a "falsetto voice" during the calls.
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Heisman Trophy finalist Te'o alleges that he, like thousands of his supporters, was duped for months by Tuiasosopo into believing that Kekua was a real person. He insists that his feelings for her were genuine, that his grief at her "death" was sincere and that he was not at all involved in the hoax.
"I wasn't faking it," Te'o told Jeremy Schaap of ESPN during a lengthy interview this week. "I wasn't part of this."
On Jan. 16, the Te'o hoax was first brought to light by blog Deadspin, which revealed that the "most heartbreaking and inspirational story of the college football season" had been a lie. Te'o, supported by the Notre Dame administration, insisted at the time that he had been clueless of the trick.
Te'o later changed his tune, saying that he had been informed of the hoax in early December, when a woman saying she was Kekua called him. The call came nearly three months after the phantom Kekua had supposedly died of lukemia. Te'o still maintains, however, that he had no part in the scam.
In an interview this week with Katie Couric, Te'o said he sincerely believed that Kekua had died of cancer. He said he hadn't lied about the matter until December.
"Katie, put yourself in my situation. I, my whole world told me that she died on Sept. 12. Everybody knew that. This girl, who I committed myself to, died on Sept. 12," Te'o told Couric. "Now I get a phone call on Dec. 6, saying that she's alive and then I'm going be put on national TV two days later. And to ask me about the same question. You know, what would you do?"
According to an earlier report by ESPN, Te'o may not be the first to have been tricked by the so-called "catfish" scam. For instance, two people reportedly "spoke with ESPN and said that their cousin had also been tricked into an online relationship with Kekua in 2008."