Tuiasosopo tells talk show host he was 'lost and confused'

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Feb 01 2013 08:32:00 PM HST

It has been debated to no end. Why did he do it? What was his motivation? How could he delve so deeply into deception and maintain it for so long?

HONOLULU -

It was a glimpse into the mind of the man behind the Manti Teo hoax and the motivation that led him to deception.

"This was a love affair," said Dr. Phil McGraw during a Thursday interview on the Dr. Phil Show.

"As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah," said 22-year-old Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

Tuiasasopo publicly admitted he was the mastermind who created "Lennay Kekua," the fake online girlfriend that football star Manti Te'o would call "the love of his life."

"I just found out that everything I believed to be my reality wasn't a reality at all," said former Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o on Couric's show last Thursday.

"I think the Internet invites people, because of anonymity, to feel they can stretch the bounds of personal responsibility," said Psychologist Dr. Marvin Acklin.

He said Tuiasosopo created what's called an 'Avatar,' an imaginary character often created in an online game of deception, these days called Catfishing, and all played under the cloak of the internet.

"It's a con. We have a whole class of criminals that make a living doing cons," he said.

"Did you assume this identity to get money?" asked Dr. Phil.

"No. I never wanted anything," said Tuiasosopo.

"It just seemed like a guy trying to get close to Manti either for money or notoriety," said Alema Te'o, Manti's uncle, after he met Tuiasosopo before the USC game against Notre Dame.

Teo's uncle and others accused Tuiasosopo of seeking financial gain -- the motivation of most romance scammers and cyber criminals.

Acklin said he's skeptical of that, but has a deeper concern for those willing to deceive at any cost.

"We use the term psychopath or sociopath to describe somebody who acts without a conscience," he said.

"I'm so confused. I'm so lost," Tuiasosopo told Dr. Phil.

Acklin said the motivation, the mind-set of a man such as Tuiasosopo, may take years to unravel.

Criminal or just Confused.

We may never know.

"I think remains to be seen, because the Internet is a world where there's an invitation to do that," said Acklin.

"What I went through was real. The feelings, the pain, the sorrow. That was all real. That's something I can't fake," said Te'o.

PART 2

Investigators say romance scams, in particular, are on the rise. The con on Manti Te'o never turned to money, but investigators say most do.

Prosecutors are about to launch a brand, new unit to battle cyber crimes.

KITV4 talked with the man leading the fight to stop them, and others, who cheat, prey, and pretend to love.

"He fell in love with this, let's say, this character," began Dr. Phil McGraw on the Dr. Phil Show on Thursday.

"In a lot of these cases, especially in the romance scams, they start out very innocent," said Chris van Marter, who is a deputy prosecutor, and the head of the white collar crimes unit at the prosecutor's office.

"I love you so much. Sweet dreams," said what appeared to be a woman's voice on one of the voice messages to Manti Te'o.

Her name was Lennay Kekua.

She was 22-year-old Ronaiah Tuiasosopo's made-up woman.

She would soon to become Manti Te'o's fake online girlfriend.

He said she was easily  accessible on line but strangely elusive in person.

"I guess I wasn't paying attention," said Te'o in an interview with Katie Couric the week before.

"The bottom line is fraud works," said van Marter.

He said Tuisasosopo's love-stung story is the type of scheme often linked to 'easy money.'

"He would tell me he loved me, and he had feelings for me," began a woman we called "Ann" during an interview in 2010.

In less than three weeks,"Ann's" fake online love tricked her out of $11,000.

"I realized I was sending money to someone who wasn't there, that wasn't real," she said.

"They think they're smarter that everyone else. They don't think they're going to get caught. If they do they don't think the consequences will be significant. For some it's a challenge. It's fun," said van Marter.

The number and cost of cyber crimes has exploded in recent years.

In 2011 alone: The Internet Crimes Complaint Center received more than 300,000 complaints and U.S. victims lost more than $485 million.

"We get about 100 complaints per month that involve either Hawaii victims or suspects. That's just complaints reported online," said van Marter.

He said add complaints to police and financial institutions, and combined, that's still only about one in seven of the people actually getting scammed.

"I poured so much in to it," admitted Tuiasosopo to Dr. Phil.

"It's the enormous amount of time it takes to undo the damage, the frustration and the stress," said van Marter.

But Hawaii laws are changing.

In July 2012, lawmakers double penalties for cyber and white collar crimes and added two new laws to penalize "sexting" and require out-of-state companies to honor Hawaii search warrants and subpoenas and release electronic and cell records during an investigation.

"It's been hard. It's been difficult," said Te'o.

Van Marter is preparing to head the first Cyber Crimes Unit at the Prosecutor's Office - armed with an extra $136,000 grant for a new investigator.

It is a shift in resources for a serious problem targeting even the most unexpected victims.

"The deception wasn't only with Manti. It was our entire family," said Te'o's mother. 

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