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Manti Te’o Held ‘Girlfriend’ Conversations With a Man

Just when you thought the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax could not get any more bizarre, it just did. Turns out, the person the Notre Dame linebacker had more than 500 hours of phone conversations with over a four-month period was a man. That is not a misprint.

Milton Grimes, the lawyer representing the man who has been identified as behind the hoax, the obviously troubled Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, told the New York Daily News that his client disguised his voice and assumed the identity of someone called “Lennay Kekua” to try to develop a relationship with Te’o.

Recordings of some of the released phone conversations revealed a high-pitched voice.  Grimes said that Te’o “thought it was a female he was talking with. It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”

Te’o appeared on Katie Couric’s television show this week to explain his role in the hoax, and he also supplied voice mails to the program that he says are from the person he thought was Kekua. The voice sounds feminine. The clips were posted earlier Thursday on Couric’s website, but are no longer available.

Grimes insists  Tuiasosopo wasn’t trying to hurt Te’o.

“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes said, according to the newspaper. “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.”

Grimes wouldn’t characterize the type of relationship Tuiasosopo wanted with the Heisman Trophy runner-up.

“I wouldn’t describe his issues at this time,” he said to the New York Daily News.

How could he get away with it, though? Tuiasosopo, 22, has had dramatic training, plays in a Christian band and even auditioned last year for the television show “The Voice.”

Phone records show that in that four-month span — when Te’o has said he believed Kekua to be in a Los Angeles hospital recovering from an accident and being treated for cancer — 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, Calif., which is part of Los Angeles County. A source told ESPN 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 some that were several hundred minutes long. In an ESPN interview Friday, and in interviews with both ESPN and Sports Illustrated last fall, Te’o said he was on the phone “every single night” with a person he believed to be Kekua, often for long stretches late at night.

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