LOS ANGELES (AP) — The woman who was unknowingly the face of Lennay Kekua said the man who concocted the hoax confessed to her and said he wanted to end the ruse that snared Notre Dame star Manti Te'o many times before it unraveled.
Diane O'Meara is the woman whose pictures were used to make an online profile of Kekua, the fake person who Te'o said he fell for without meeting in person. O'Meara said Ronaiah Tuiasosopo told her that he created the hoax and wanted to end it before Kekua "died" in September, but Te'o wanted the relationship with Kekua to continue.
O'Meara spoke with The Associated Press by phone Thursday from New York with her attorneys in the room. O'Meara said Tuiasosopo confessed in a 45-minute phone call Jan. 14 that he'd "stalked" her Facebook profile for five years and stolen photos to create Kekua.
The 23-year-old O'Meara, of Long Beach, said when Tuiasosopo sent her a Facebook message Dec. 16, it was the first time he'd contacted her since high school.
It was also 10 days after Te'o said he received a call from the person pretending to be Kekua, saying she was alive after all.
O'Meara said Tuiasosopo called and told her about a serious car accident that left his cousin with major brain damage. He asked her for a photo with her holding up a sign reading "MSMK" — which Te'o says were the initials Kekua went by — and the date. Tuiasosopo said the idea was to cheer up his cousin on his birthday because he was facing surgery. O'Meara agreed.
Te'o provided a photo to Katie Couric that seems to be the shot O'Meara sent to Tuiasosopo. It was shown during Te'o's interview with Couric that was broadcast Thursday.
In early January, Tuiasosopo contacted O'Meara again to request more photos and a video of O'Meara saying "good luck on the 7th." Tuiasosopo told her his cousin's brain surgery had been pushed back. On Jan. 6, he texted her "Hey diane, just wanted to thank you again for your prayers & support. Tomorrow is the big day & we are being as positive as we can be!"
Jan. 7 was the date of the BCS national championship between Notre Dame and Alabama. O'Meara learned her identity had been used by Tuiasosopo to create Kekua when a Deadspin.com reporter contacted her last week and Tuiasosopo confessed.
O'Meara said she feels "violated" and "exposed" by what happened. Her attorney Jim Artiano said he is evaluating the situation and has not decided on whether to take any legal action.
Tami Abdollah can be contacted at tabdollah(at)ap.org or http://www.twitter.com/latams
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