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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
91.

Chizzy31    

Pookah Has NOTHING To Do With This ****.

623 days ago
92.

Chizzy31    

Pookah Has NOTHING To Do With This Stupidity.

623 days ago
93.

Steve    

It seems obvious to me he is gay and he felt pressured into creating a girlfriend and it spiraled out of control. He should come out, and everyone will see it was society causing him to do this and he'll get a pass. Then when it comes draft time Goodell won't let the runner up in the Heisman to slip out of the first round. The guy will be fine.

623 days ago
94.

Steve    

It seems obvious to me that he is gay. He made up a girlfriend because he goes to a Catholic school and didn't want to get kicked out. Come clean, it's societies fault not his. Goodell won't let teams pass over him in the draft because the NFL will take a huge hit. It just explains everything.

623 days ago
95.

Rig    

Wonder if he's related to any of the Tuiasosopo family (Manu, Marques, etc) who played in the NFL??

623 days ago
96.

DOODOO808    

Horrible reporting TMZ. Donna Tei is the girlfrind of Ronaiah's cousin, who also happens to be a former USC star football player. Just like Ronaiahs dad. Didnt you read the deadspin article???

623 days ago
97.

DOODOO808    

You want a motive? USC hates ND, simple as that. These douches probably started the hoax just to f**k with him, but then realized they might be able to pull off some sympathy extortion, so they made up a few more characters to pull at Manti's heart strings. All Manti is guilty of is being a caring, humble and admittedly naive guy. lesson learned.

623 days ago
98.

MyOpinion    

I don't get it... Isn't "jan" guilty too? Or did I miss something? Very strange story

623 days ago
99.

Toilethead    

I'm very confused.

623 days ago
100.

emme    

I know I'm off the point of the story but the "famous tommy trojan" statue is not in front of the Coliseum it is on Campus.

623 days ago
101.

cquick    

Confused

623 days ago
102.

Rebecca    

From my understanding uuuuummmmm yeah....confused.

623 days ago
103.

midsnloud    

It seems that many you haven't read the original Deadspin article that broke the story. It is an example of excellent investigatory journalism that points out contradictions in simple facts such as the the date/location of the funeral and when Te'O s girlfriend actually died (his grandmother as well). Media like Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and ESPN all reported different dates on these key facts. DEADSPIN barried Manti. Tuiasosopo was his close friend and both have gone on a massive deleting spree of pictures and comments in connection to their Twitter accounts that connect to this story.

623 days ago
104.

Jillian    

It is really starting to sound like someone hoping to extort money after the draft - with how crazy and intricate this story is getting, it seems like the only way to make some sort of logical conclusion

623 days ago
105.

Patty    

I just wish they didn't show the little girl's face. "pooka" is only a kid.

623 days ago
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