BOUNTIFUL, Utah (ABC 4 News) – A tragic love story turned bizarre hoax has perplexed the assistant football coach at Bountiful High School.
Alema Te’o tells “1280 the Zone”, his nephew Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o is the victim of a scam.
“No doubt in my mind he was not involved in this willingly or knowingly,” Alema Te’o told the Utah radio program.
Manti’s dead girlfriend, a woman he met online never existed.
Alema Te’o said a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo led Manti to believe she did and that she was battling leukemia-- all in a plot to get money.
“I just felt that he was someone who wanted to get close to Manti for either money or notoriety,” said Alema.
Manti’s love story gripped the nation-- the country lead to believe he lost his girlfriend and grandmother at the same time.
“Six hours ago I just found out my grandma passed away and you take the love of my life,” Manti was quoted saying in an interview before he says he found out his girlfriend was fake.
But uncle Te’o insists Manti was being played and the football star is just as dumbfounded as anyone.
“Everybody is concerned about his mental state and how he’s feeling right now and it’s so sad to believe that someone would go out of their way to try to sabotage his character and what he stood for,” he said.