12:57 pm - 01/17/2013

and there's more

Manti TE'o Hoax: All Scams lead to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo

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."

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.

amanda_aces 17th-Jan-2013 07:38 pm (UTC)
I have no idea.
Someone said something about ND being really strict and religious, and he was up for the Heisman, and maybe people thought he was gay so he made her up to quell the rumors?

I think it would make more sense just to lie and say you're single but who knows what pressures this guy was feeling?
whossoulsister 17th-Jan-2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
the gay thing would make sense to me but he's mormon and his parents seemed to be in on the whole thing. like his dad said he had called lennay to congratulate her on getting out of the hospital.
hearthecity 17th-Jan-2013 07:45 pm (UTC)
I wonder why they all felt he needed this lie
bellyroomfan 17th-Jan-2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
or convince a girl to be your fake girlfriend? i mean, he's a successful college football player, i am sure there are tons of girls who would fake date him for the boost in popularity and such.

making someone up just baffles my mind cause like, there is no way people won't figure it out eventually
firefox1490 18th-Jan-2013 12:07 am (UTC)
It's easier with a fake person cause then only ~1 person is in on the secret. What if whoever is your fake gf blabs to her friends, meets someone she really likes, or you'd actually have to spend time with this girl which is probably what they didn't want*.

*Assuming he's gay and hiding his real relationship.
firefox1490 18th-Jan-2013 12:05 am (UTC)
In terms of making up a girlfriend it does make sense sort of. THis way no one ever tries to set you up, or ask where your girlfriend etc. You have a built in excuses of Im in a long distance relationship see heres her photo.

But if he's really gay and in a secret gay relationship making up a girlfriend gives you the excuse for having long phone calls, disappearing, etc. And again no one asking about your GF or trying to set you up.
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