Manti Te'o's Bogus Girlfriend: Was He In On The Hoax?

Manti Te'o

Do you think the football star was a 'Catfish' victim?

Manti Te'o is the all-star linebacker we were all rooting for during the college football season. He led Notre Dame to glory in the Bowl Championship Series title game despite his perfectly heartbreaking backstory: coping with the death of his girlfriend.

Four days before the big game, Te'o was asked how he was dealing with the loss. "I think whenever you’re in football, it takes your mind off a lot of things," he said.

But something about the story proved to be fishy ... or should we say, catfish-y? Yesterday, Deadspin broke the story that Te'o's girlfriend, who allegedly died of leukemia, never in fact existed.

It turns out, Te'o was the victim of an internet hoax. "To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating," he said in a statement. While most of the story is untold, people are now questioning whether he was, in fact, hoaxed by a "catfish" — someone who creates a false online persona, usually in order to lure and trick someone else into a bogus relationship — or if he and the university fabricated the story to capture the media's sympathy during the season (since they desperately covered up the hoax and investigation up until this point).

Confused? We are too.

His story sounds like an episode right out of MTV’s hit documentary show Catfish (based on a documentary of the same name, which spawned the term). The show follows filmmaker Nev, who fell victim to a catfish himself, and who helps the virtually heartsick prove to either debunk or prove the online profiles of their lovers. More often than not, these people are sorely disappointed when the turns out to be a person posing as someone else in a sad, deceptive attempt to spark a romantic relationship.

The question is, was Te'o in on it? As much as we'd love to believe that he's the innocent bystander who really got hurt by it all, it's hard to believe. The image that his "girlfriend" was using was actually of an unnamed woman, who has since been interviewed. After she found out her image was being used in the hoax, she called up a good friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who told her not to worry. Shortly after, the images of her were gone.

Sources have now found that Tuiasosopo is actually a friend of Te'o's, and a musician who Te'o has promoted via his own Twitter account. Also, they're all from Hawaii. Is it really just a small world or was it all a set up to gain publicity?

So. was Te'o really "catfished"? Tell us what you think below!

Read on to see three tips to prevent yourself from being tricked online.

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Photo Credit: Getty