Who is Simon Leviev, Netflix’s Tinder Swindler?
Who is Simon Leviev, Netflix’s Tinder Swindler?

Netflix has added another true-crime documentary to its library, this time looking at the crimes of conman Shimon Hayut, who was arrested in 2019 for posing as a billionaire named 'Simon Leviev' on a dating app Tinder in order to defraud women out of hundreds and thousands of dollars.

In the documentary The Tinder Swindler, three women who were duped by Hayut have come together to share their views on their experiences.

So, who exactly is Shimon Hayut? And where is he now? And has he reacted to being the subject of the popular Netflix documentary?

Who is Simon Leviev?

Shimon Hayut is a 31-year-old man, who pretended to be a billionaire named Simon Leviev on Tinder.

He referred to himself as ‘the prince of diamonds’ and claimed to be the son of billionaire Russian-Israeli diamond mogul, Lev Leviev.

To make his story more believable, Shimon legally changed his surname to Leviev and hired a team of fake assistants and business partners. He also claimed to be a high-powered CEO who constantly traveled for work.

In order to fund his lavish lifestyle of private jets, luxury hotels, and fast cars, he conned a number of women out of thousands of dollars.

Shimon would first shower women he met on the dating app with lavish trips and gifts, using money he had taken from other women. To keep up his act, he would then ask for more money from these women, telling them he needed to protect his identity due to security concerns.

The Tinder Swindler sees three of Shimon's victims teaming up to share their stories. The three women are – Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm and Ayleen Charlotte.

Fjellhoy, 29, matched with Shimon back in 2018. At the time, she was a graduate living in London and for their first date, he organized a private jet to Bulgaria from London.

"When I first talked with Simon, we immediately had a bond," says Cecilie in the Netflix doc. "It felt like stepping into a movie."

However, this fairytale romance soon turned into a nightmare for Cecilie, who later found herself in over $200,000 debt.

Four weeks into their relationship, Cecilie said that Shimon asked her to take out a massive line of credit for him, saying that it was needed to avoid leaving a paper trail in his name.

"One of the main reasons why he needed it was protection… he needed my name as a cover, he said," Cecilie told Nightline in 2019.

"I know it sounds crazy... [but] why would he have this giant guy with him if he didn't need the protection?," she said, referring to an apparent bodyguard.

By the time Cecilie realised that her money had gone, their relationship was over and Shimon was already onto his next victim - a Swedish woman named Pernilla Sjoholm, who he is said to have splurged over $10,000 on taking to the opera in a limousine.

Eight months into their relationship, Shimon asked to borrow $45,000 from Sjoholm, which he paid back with a watch she later discovered was a fake.

Soon after lending Shimon money, Pernilla learned that she had been swindled. An investigative reporter for Verdens Gang contacted her to explain that they were researching the case of a serial fraudster. Together, they set up a sting operation to stop Shimon Hayut from his continuing his scam.

Why was he called the Tinder Swindler?

Leviev earned the name the Tinder Swindler thanks to his elaborate plot using the app.

It is also the name of a new Netflix documentary exposing how he pretended to be a jet-setting diamond mogul to woo women then cheat them out of cash.

The almost two-hour film focuses on three of his victims - Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte.

How much money did he steal?

Photo: tuoitre
Photo: tuoitre

An estimated $10 million, according to The Times of Israel. Hayut would evade repayment by cajoling, threatening and otherwise stalling his victims: He made a habit of sending increasingly unhinged WhatsApp voice messages, even sending one to the filmmakers when he learned about The Tinder Swindler’s existence.

How did he get caught?

Eventually, one of Hayut’s long-term girlfriends, Ayleen Koeleman, saw the VG piece and turned the tables on him. After the story went viral, Hayut had to take a break from jet-setting and lay low. He turned to Koeleman, the only woman who seemed to trust him, for help — but she was way ahead of him. Koeleman eventually convinced him that she could sell his designer-brand clothes to make some cash and simply kept the money, swindling the Tinder Swindler herself. After some quick detective work, she deduced that Hayut was flying to Greece and gave his flight information to the authorities. He was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to 15 months in prison for fraud in Israel soon after.

How can I watch the Tinder Swindler?

Tinder Swindler is available to stream on Netflix from Wednesday 2nd February 2022.

What is the Tinder Swindler about?

A Netflix synopsis reads: "From the team producers of Don't F**ck With Cats, modern love is a dangerous game in the world of online dating, and not all that glitters is gold. Notoriously known as The Tinder Swindler, he has seduced and swindled young women for millions and is a fugitive from justice in several countries. One swipe could change your life. This is the ultimate fairytale gone nightmare. Follow three women who decided it was time for payback."

Is Simon Leviev Still on Tinder?

The documentary’s epilogue mentions that Leviev is currently active on Tinder, but representatives for the dating app firmly deny this.

“We banned Simon Leviev and any of his known aliases as soon as the story of his actions became public in 2019,” a Tinder spokeswoman told NBC News. “In the lead up to the release of the documentary, we conducted additional internal investigations and can confirm Simon Leviev is not active on Tinder under any of his known aliases.”

Furthermore, Leviev has been permanently banned from all apps owned by Tinder’s parent company Match Group Inc., which includes Hinge, Match.com, and OkCupid.

To put a fine point on it, Tinder issued a set of guidelines titled “Romance Scams: How to Protect Yourself Online” the day before the documentary premiered.

Where Is Simon Leviev now?

Photo: zingnews
Photo: zingnews

According to The Times of Israel, Leviev has been living as a free man since 2020. He regularly shares pictures of his extravagant lifestyle with his 100,000 Instagram followers. (An unverified TikTok account under his name has over 19,000 followers). On Tuesday, that Instagram account disappeared, but not before he announced that he would be back to tell his side of the story on Friday, Feb. 11.

“If I was a fraud why would I act on Netflix,” he posted to his Instagram Stories. “I mean they should have arrested me when we were still shooting. It’s high time the ladies start saying the truth. If you can’t give them the world they’ll turn yours to hell.”

As shown in the documentary, Leviev was arrested in Greece in 2019 and extradited back to Israel, where he had been declared a fugitive. The Times of Israel reported that he had fled the country twice since 2017 when he was set to be recharged and resentenced for fraud, theft, and forgery charges dating back to 2011. He reportedly had cashed stolen checks belonging to one family he’d babysat for and another for whom he’d worked as a handyman.

Leviev’s first stint in prison was in 2015 when authorities in Finland sentenced him to two years for defrauding three women.

In December 2019, he was imprisoned in Israel and ordered to pay $43,289 after being convicted on four fraud charges. But in 2020, he was released five months into his 15-month sentence through a program seeking to reduce the prison population so as to minimize the risk of a COVID outbreak among inmates.

“I was in shock from the decision to release him. I’m really disappointed by [Israel’s] justice system, which gives a man like that a reduced sentence,” Pernilla Sjoholm told Channel 12 News at the time. “He deceived people and left prison after five months? Did you go crazy in Israel?”

She continued, “How can you give trust to a man like that, who escaped from Israel twice? A man that deceived and swindled women in Europe for hundreds of thousands of euros. Where is the justice?”

What happened to Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm, or Ayleen Charlotte?

The central women in The Tinder Swindler are still paying off their debts as a result of Leviev's deceit. He has so far not been charged for any crimes towards them or any that may have occurred outside his home country.

Ayleen took justice into her own hands, pretending to be on Simon's side and selling his designer clothes to help raise money for him. However, she never had any intention of giving him any of the money she made. She kept in contact with him and managed to alert to the authorities to his new identity and of his flight plans, which led to his arrest with a fake passport.

How did Shimon Hayut react to the series The Tinder Swindler?

Shimon Hayut has shared his thoughts on the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler ahead of deleting his Instagram account.

According to The Independent, Hayut had gained 200,000 followers on his Instagram page before he deleted his account.

Prior to deleting, he reportedly posted: "I will share my side of the story in the next few days when I have sorted out the best and most respectful way to tell it, both to the involved parties and myself."

He is then noted to have stated: "Until then, please keep an open mind and heart."

Is LLD Diamonds a Real Company?

LLD Diamonds, the diamond company founded by Russian-Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, is very real. Although Leviev reportedly has nine children, Shimon Hayut is not one of them. His real father is El Al Airlines chief rabbi Yohanan Hayut.

While Leviev has yet to address the matter himself, LLD Diamonds have confirmed that Leviev has no connection to the company. Last week, the company told Newsweek that it has filed a complaint with the Israeli police.

“Our company has no connection whatsoever with Shimon Hayut. He is a fraud who has tried to exploit our good name to con victims out of millions of dollars,” read part of the statement. “Our sympathies go out to his victims. His fraud has also caused ongoing confusion about our company. Nothing he has said, about LLD or anything else, should be believed.”

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