Manti Te'o's uncle Alema Te'o went on The Zone Sports Network last night and spoke to radio hosts Scott Garrard and Riley Jensen about the Manti Te'o-Lennay Kekua story that we broke on Wednesday. Alema didn't have much to say about Manti, but he did offer some personal insight into the character of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who had falsely presented himself as Lennay Kekua.
Alema recalled meeting Ronaiah in a hotel room just before the Notre Dame-USC game in November. During the interview, Alema talked at length about how he thought that Ronaiah was a "bad rat" from the moment he met him. Alema claims that Ronaiah lied to him about helping to organize Troy Polamalu's football camp. Alema says he immediately knew that Ronaiah was lying, because he himself was in charge of running Polamalu's football camp, and he had never heard of Ronaiah before. Alema says he didn't say anything at the time because he didn't want to cause trouble, although he did express his concerns about Ronaiah to Manti's father at a later date.
The weirdest part of Alema's story involved a 9-year-old girl that Ronaiah had brought to the hotel room with him. Ronaiah allegedly introduced the girl as Lennay Kekua's cousin and someone with whom Manti had spoken on the phone numerous times before while Lennay was in the hospital. But Alema claims that she was actually Ronaiah's little sister, and that Ronaiah was "almost guarding her...not letting her speak for herself" while she was in the hotel room.
Alema's suspicions were raised further when Ronaiah began talking about a fundraising effort that he was spearheading. According to Alema, Ronaiah told him that he was creating a foundation to raise money for leukemia victims and was currently trying to raise money for a friend of Lennay's who had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed money to pay for his tuition at Stanford. Alema believes that Ronaiah was somehow trying to get money out of Manti.
Garrard and Jensen did ask Alema if he could explain why Manti and his father had previously stated that Manti and Lennay had met in person. Alema answered by saying that he wouldn't be surprised if Ronaiah had in fact hired a girl to pretend to be Lennay and sent her to meet with Manti in person. Alema said he did not believe that Manti had any part in perpetuating the hoax, and pointed to Ronaiah as the villain of this story:
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing, he misrepresented whatever program that he was trying to get across to Manti, and shoot, he lied every step of the way. I don't feel it's beyond him to hire somebody or bring somebody in to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal.