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Manti Te'o 'fake girlfriend' says she's off Facebook, social media

DIane O'Meara, the Southern California woman linked to an elaborate hoax involving Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, said she is shutting down all her social media.

O'Meara wrote an opinion piece for The Times in which she talked about the incident. Her photo was used in the hoax as that of Te'o's girlfriend. She said the photo was used without her permission and that she had no role in the hoax.

"In the last week, I've shut down all my social media accounts," she wrote. "But I realize that's not a long-term solution. I use social media to connect with a network of friends and family, and with business associates. Social media make the world always accessible — no matter where I am or what time of day or night, I can share my life with my friends and they can share theirs with me."

In the opinion piece, she recounted learning she was part of the hoax.

Earlier this month, when the Website Deadspin.com broke the story of Manti Te'o's non-existent girlfriend, I heard from several friends, all with some version of the same message: "That girl in the hoax photographs looks exactly like you."

There was a reason for that. The photographs were of me, though I had no idea until the story broke that they had been used to create a false identity for a woman who never existed, Lennay Kekua.

In an interview aired Wednesday on NBC's "Today" show,  O'Meara, 23, said she went to high school with the alleged instigator, who she said used pictures from her Facebook page to create Te'o's fictitious girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. O'Meara's former Paraclete High School classmate, identified as Ronaiah Tuiasosopo in the Deadspin.com report that revealed the hoax, contacted her in December asking for another photo, she said.

"He relayed this story that him and his cousin had been in a traumatic car accident in early 2012," O'Meara said, saying Tuiasosopo mentioned streets she knew from their hometown. "He relayed to me that as a birthday gift he wanted to do a photo slide show for his cousin."

The California Highway Patrol confirmed to The Times that Tuiasosopo and two passengers were involved in a two-vehicle crash in Lancaster on March 23.

Tuiasosopo even sent pictures of his cousin, who had bandages and was in a hospital bed, O'Meara said.

O'Meara said she only spoke to Tuiasosopo "two or three times" in high school and hadn't heard from him in about five years.

"If somebody called me out of the blue after five years, I don't know that I would hand over a picture of myself," Savannah Guthrie of "Today" said. "Why do you think you did that?"

"I could see how people would think that," O'Meara said. "But we're raised to be polite, we're raised to have a kind heart. He repeatedly reached out to me on Facebook and I almost felt guilty as far as not submitting a photo with this sign for this photo slide show.... Out of the kindness of my heart, I thought I was just comforting somebody that I knew of."

-- Matt Stevens and Kate Mather

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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