Tuiasosopo, the 22-year-old mastermind of the elaborate hoax that embarrassed Te’o, spoke publicly for the first time in an interview with Dr. Phil McGraw for the “Dr. Phil Show,” the first part of which aired Thursday.
Tuiasosopo said Te’o knew nothing of the scam, and doesn’t think he ever suspected Kekua was fake.
“He had no involvement,” Tuiasosopo said. “He did not know anything.”
Tuiasosopo said he built the online persona of Kekua, a nonexistent woman who Te’o said he fell in love with despite never meeting in person. Tuiasosopo then killed off the character last September.
“I pretty much had this escape of Lennay and this was where my heart had pretty much invested, not just time, but all of my energy went into this,” Tuiasosopo said.
He said he felt Kekua was a part of him, and grew feelings and emotions for Te’o that he could not control. He acknowledged the hoax was cruel, but said it was never intended as a joke and that he got no financial gain from it.
“As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person,” he said, referring to Te’o. “I did all that I could to help this person become a better person, even though I wasn’t getting nothing out of it.”
Tuiasosopo said he killed the Kekua character the day Te’o learned his grandmother died, following an argument with the football star.
Te’o had told Kekua he didn’t need her, Tuiasosopo said.
“It hurt me,” he said. “It hit me like a brick wall.