And so TMZ enters the world of Notre Dame football world.
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.
Jan then mentioned she would be attending Notre Dame's season finale in Los Angeles and would like to meet up with U'ilani.
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 TMZ for the photo).
This Jan was then apparently put through a similar (albeit less involved) scenario which has reportedly happened to Manti Te'o.
Tuiasosopo allegedly broke out the sick/death card.
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."
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.