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Manti Te'o Hoax

All SCAMS Lead to

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

1/17/2013 10:35 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
EXCLUSIVE

0117_ronaiah_article_tmz_6
The Manti Te'o not-really-dead-girlfriend hoax was perpetuated by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo -- who served as a representative for the family of the fake "Lennay Kekua" ... and TMZ has the photo proof.

Here's what we know ...

While Manti was "dating" Lennay ... a Notre Dame die-hard fan who we'll call "Jan" (to protect her identity) reached out to Lennay on Twitter and began an online friendship.

After Lennay's supposed death, Jan became involved with a group called "Wear a Lei 4 Manti" -- in which fans wore Hawaiian leis to ND football games to show their support for the football star.

When the "Wear a Lei 4 Manti" movement began to receive media attention, Jan says she noticed she gained a Twitter follower named U'ilani Rae Kekua.

Jan tells TMZ ... she reached out to U'ilani and asked if she was related to Lennay -- to which U'ilani replied, "Yes, that's my baby sister." The two became friends.

In fact, Jan says they both mentioned how they were going to attend the Notre Dame vs. USC game in L.A. on November 24, 2012  ... so Jan sent U'ilani her cell phone number in case she wanted to meet up.

Here's where the story takes a turn ... Jan tells TMZ she got a phone call from U'ilani on the day of the game directing her to the famous Tommy Trojan statue in front of the stadium, so they could meet up.

But when Jan arrived to the statue, U'ilani was NOT there ... but guess who was -- Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.  Jan and Ronaiah even took a photo together (see above).

According to the Deadspin article, Ronaiah was the person who obtained the photo of the woman everyone believed to be Lennay ... and is suspected of having a major role in the hoax.

Jan tells us Ronaiah was with a little girl during the USC meeting who they called Pookah -- and together, they explained how Lennay's sister couldn't come down to visit, so U'ilani sent them instead. Jan says Ronaiah "made it seem as if he was a member of Lennay's family."

After Jan and Ronaiah took the picture together -- Jan says Ronaiah began to act paranoid ... and told her, "Make sure you don't post this photo online."

Soon after the game, Jan says she was contacted by U'ilani ... who also urged her NOT to post the picture of Ronaiah. She didn't explain why.

U'ilani later sent a photo to Jan showing a woman at a cemetery -- and told her, "This is me and my family at Lennay's gravesite. We're spending the day here."

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Clearly, the woman in the photo is not U'ilani ('cause she doesn't really exist) ... and some digging suggests the woman in the photo is actually a woman named Donna Tei, who doesn't seem to have a relationship with anyone involved in the hoax.

There's more ... Jan tells TMZ Lennay's "sister" continued to reach out to her after the USC game ... and delivered some more bad news -- that little Pookah had been diagnosed with lupus and was dying in a children's hospital in Orange County, CA.

Jan said she wanted to send flowers -- so Lennay's "sister" gave her an address. TMZ has learned the address belongs to a member of the Tuiasosopo family.

Jan also gave us the phone number Lennay's sister would use to contact her -- and we found out the number is registered to a man named Titus Tuiasosopo -- Ronaiah's father.

We tried to reach out to Ronaiah -- but we couldn't get a hold of him. So far, he has yet to comment to the media about the story.

For more sports stories, check out tmzsports.com!
198 COMMENTS

No Avatar
31.

WTF    

I don't get it why this is a public story.

581 days ago
32.

ashley    

Yo @TMZ how about drawing me some type of diagram bc this shyt is all confusing! I'm still a bit lost. WTH!?! Did Te'O ever meet anyone in person?

581 days ago
33.

Al    

You've got to give some credence to the possibility that Manti was involved in this. Why? Maybe to get the sympathy vote for the Heismann Trophy. Things like that have been known to happen.
But at least that explanation makes sense. The thought that this was an elaborate hoax to trick Manti makes even less sense - what is the payoff?

581 days ago
34.

Wow ...    

Per DeadSpin article, Ronaiah and Manti know one another, but Deadspin does not have the details of their friendship. Was this a Catfish situation with Ronaiah jealous or was Manti involved in a scam, from the start?

581 days ago
35.

Just Reading    

Ok...so either Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a friend of Manti's who helped to create this hoax (and Jen met him before the hoax was exposed) or...he's gay, has a crush on Mati and the whole fake girl was his way of getting to Mati. Not as complex as it seems.

581 days ago
36.

Ca2Az    

Just read this twice. I am so confused.

581 days ago
37.

lolurdumb    

None of this **** make sense anymore! Who wrote this article???

581 days ago
38.

_Taterman    

Poor Manti, he has book smarts and football smarts, but when it comes to relationships he's on the lower end of the totem pole. Sounds like he got the cat-fished ultimately.

581 days ago
39.

Victor    

It is always about love or money. Just hope for Manti's sake it's not Ronaiah on the other end of his affection.

581 days ago
40.

BluntForce    

wow these islanders are as stupid as they look.

581 days ago
41.

Gretel    

That story reminds me of my nana trying to explain the plot of a soap opera. Could it not be written a bit more comprehensively?

581 days ago
42.

Majestik    

Okay now, if you can uncover that this Ronawhatever guy owns the Lei company it would make sense. Jan started the sympathy/support of wearing a Lei, who sold them and how much did they make?
.
Other than that, no mention of money so I can't figure a dang thing out unless dude was looking to get himself on Catfished by proving he can do it? Wouldn't be the first idiot to do something unreal to make it on a reality show now would it?

581 days ago
43.

KicksandGiggles    

WTF? These people need to stop these stupid BS High School games and find something to do. For real.

581 days ago
44.

Yesindeed!    

Can anyone even follow that story??

581 days ago
45.

trickyrick    

Nice investigative work TMZ!

581 days ago
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