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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
76.

heidi    

Side note-that gravesite photo seems photoshopped.

642 days ago
77.

ratbag    

These guys need to work on their plot developments. Simply, having everyone "die" is not a credible character arc.

642 days ago
78.

JessiRose    

Is anyone else having trouble following this G*d d@mn story? Good grief!

642 days ago
79.

Brian    

It's obvious. These two guys are closeted lovers. What better cover than a dead imaginary girlfriend? They are Butt Buddies for sure. Aloha football career.

642 days ago
80.

The Wizard    

Re Manti Te'o: WHO CARES?? Has no one until now been duped by an on-line "girl"? NO one?? 20 kids shot up in Connecticut, American hostages in Algeria -- hell, I even care more about Subway's 11-inch "foot-long"! Would everyone who cares PLEASE find that rock under which the Mayan-calendar idiots have skulked and join them? And don't come out to vote! Ever! WHO in HELL CARES???

642 days ago
81.

beayou    

I am COMPLETELY confused. Thanks, TMZ. Nothing harder to keep track of than names from Tonga and Samoa. I need to brush up on my Polynesian languages. Aloha!

642 days ago
82.

beayou    

More people need to name their children "Pookah." It's so colorful. That's about all I got out of this confusing article.

642 days ago
83.

steve    

The bottom line is this; did Te'o and this guy actually get involved with this lie from the start? Several people involved with this have said, they both got involved in this from the start and it snowballed. Mt guess is ND knows more than they will ever say, which is why they are keeping pretty tight lipped about this . It does not sound like any money or anything else was involved but this thing is such a confusing mess, who knows..

642 days ago
84.

Shannon    

I don't get it.

642 days ago
85.

elm    

LEAVE POOKIH ALONE!

642 days ago
86.

soccerguy3030    

Suggestions are that Manti is gay and this was a cover that went on too far or maybe Notre Dame was looking for another "Rudy" story

642 days ago
87.

ladileo10    

What is going on I'm so confuse y does this even matter

642 days ago
88.

Natalie    

Donna Tei did have some connection with the hoax:

From the deadspin article:

Donna Tei's Twitter account is @FreDonna51zhun; Fred Matua wore No. 51, and Tei's profile is full of pictures of herself with the late football star (and cousin of Tuiasosopo's). We showed U'ilani's Twitter avatar to one of Tei's friends, and he confirmed it was her.

642 days ago
89.

survey_says    

All of this to cover up a secret lifestyle.

642 days ago
90.

DaniM0nster    

This is just getting weirder and weirder..

642 days ago
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