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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
61.

bfs    

Te'o's got to b the dumbest jock ever. Really? Another pathetic millionaire to feel sorry for, good grief!, pun intended!

607 days ago
62.

Sally    

Eventually, they would have been after money or identity. They are criminals.

607 days ago
63.

Boing!    

Do you think it is wise to drag Pookah into this TMZ? She's an obvious minor and kids can be bullies. I hope she doesn't get harassed at school.

607 days ago
64.

Steve    

This is one big scam!!

607 days ago
65.

BobbyBlue    

This has to be the worst written article I've ever read

607 days ago
66.

Jac    

It's all very strange that this hoax comes to light at the exact same time as the MTV show "Catfish" is all over the media. Very suspect.

607 days ago
67.

@Marsay    

CATFISH!!

607 days ago
68.

homo     

ta o is a s*** bag pos liar loser idiot bottom feeder crab balls samoan trash

607 days ago
69.

Kemosabe    

This story has more plot twists than Lindsay Lohan's life does.

607 days ago
70.

Stephanie    

Sounds like another Catfish movie.

607 days ago
71.

Truth    

LMAO!! YALL THINK POOKAH IS REAL. LOOK AT THE PIC. THE LITTLE KID IS RONAIAH'S YOUNGER SISTER. NO DOUBT SHE GOT CONVINCED TO PLAY U'LANI, LENNAY, IF NOT BOTH!! #TRUTH!!

607 days ago
72.

JeffyJeff    

This gut is incredibly stupid... if he was in on it or not he is an idiot!

607 days ago
73.

Amber    

There's nothing wrong with the article. Y'all need to read more.

607 days ago
74.

The New Improved Sock Puppet    

So you pixelate the picture of an apparently innocent woman who got involved in this but it's okay to plaster an innocent child's picture as part of the scandal? Your weekend staff must be starting early this week.

607 days ago
75.

mwen    

This doesnt really clarifies why manit -te'o considered someone he never met , a girlfriend. This new information just added a whole new level of crazy. Im guessing the part about pooka having lupus is a lie also...i just want to know...why????

607 days ago
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