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When it comes to online dating, there’s no guarantee that the person behind the profile pic is who they say they are. The women featured in Netflix’s new true-crime documentary, The Tinder Swindler, learned that the hard way. The film, which hit the streamer on Feb. 2, tells the story of Simon Leviev a bold con artist who conned multiple women out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by posing as the heir to an Israeli diamond fortune. 

‘The Tinder Swindler’ tells the story of an international con man 

After Cecilie Fjellhoy, who describes herself as “a bit of a Tinder expert,” matched with Leviev on the app, it didn’t take him long to sweep her off her feet. The suave playboy whisked her off on trips on his private jet and showered her with affection. But then he began to drop hints about vague enemies who were out to get him. Before long, he was asking to borrow her American Express, and then running up huge bills on the card. 

As Leviev was romancing Fjellhoy, he was also busy pursuing other women, including Tinder Swindler interviewee Pernilla Sjoholm. Though she didn’t get involved with him romantically,  they did become friends. And like Fjellhoy, she also gave him money when he said he had gotten into financial trouble after a business deal gone wrong. He even sent bloody photos to both women to back up his story that his life was in danger.  

Eventually, the women realized that Leviev was using them. Working with Norweigan journalists, they set about exposing the scammer. In the process, more victims emerged from the woodwork. 

Simon Leviev was released from prison in 2020

Image of the lower part of a man's face talking on the phone from Netflix's 'The Tinder Swindler'
Joe Stassi as Simon Leviev in ‘The Tinder Swindler’ | Courtesy of Netflix

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One woman who saw the news reports about the Tinder Swindler was Ayleen Charlotte. The Dutch woman had been dating Leviev for more than a year after meeting him on the app. As she read the article, she realized he had used many of the same tricks on her as he had on the other women. She decided that she was going to beat Leviev at his own game. Charlotte got him to hand over his designer clothes, which she quickly resold, keeping the money for herself. 

With Charlotte’s help, authorities eventually apprehended Leviev – whose real name is Shimon Hayut – in Greece. He was returned to his native Israel in 2019 and sentenced to prison for fraud he committed in that country. But he was not charged with any crimes against the women featured in the documentary. And he ended up serving only 5 months of his 19-month sentence. Leviev was released in 2020. As of 2022, he is reportedly still living in Israel. And it sounds like he hasn’t given up his glamorous lifestyle.  

“Up until recently, his Instagram was open, it wasn’t set to private and Simon’s driving around in Ferraris,” filmmaker Felicity Morris told Newsweek. “He’s taking pictures of himself in private jets, he’s dating glamorous women. And so, therefore, you think, ‘Well, that doesn’t look like justice to me.’”

‘The Tinder Swindler’ filmmakers hope the Netflix movie exposes the truth about Simon Leviev

Leviev is a free man today. But the Tinder Swindler filmmakers (who also produced Netflix’s 2019 docuseries Don’t F*ck With Cats) hope their documentary does more to expose him for who he really is. 

“What we’ve hoped with this film – and Cecilie really started the relay race or held the baton first – is that it will act as justice for them in some way,” Morris said. “Because obviously, Netflix is such a huge global platform. Lots of people watch it, and lots of people will see Simon for who he really is. He can’t sort of hide behind the guise that has been Simon Leviev, the heir of the Israeli diamond fortune anymore.”

Meanwhile, those conned by Leviev hope he eventually leaves Israel so that he can be arrested for the crimes he allegedly committed in Europe. 

“Private investigators and Interpol people are waiting for him to leave Israel to arrest him,” one of his victims, who declined to give her name, told Israel’s Channel 12 (via the Times of Israel). “He ruined my life and shattered me emotionally and financially.” 

The Tinder Swindler is currently streaming on Netflix. 

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