Simon Leviev, an Israeli con man, has been accused of stealing millions of dollars from women he met on Tinder and other online dating apps. After the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler featured interviews detailing the scam, the victims have started a GoFundMe, Tinder has banned him and Leviev has – at least temporarily – deleted his Instagram account.
Since the documentary premiered on Feb. 2, three of the alleged Leviev victims – Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm and Ayleen Charlotte — have launched a crowdfunding effort on GoFundMe to recoup some of the $600,000 they say they lost to the huckster.
Meanwhile, Leviev (born Shimon Heyada Hayut) weighed in on Monday via his Instagram story, claiming that the women who accused him of robbery are lying to “turn [his world] to hell.” The so-called Tinder Swindler also said he will address the accusations more specifically in a message to “the whole world on Friday.”
‘Tinder Swindler’ Lived a Life of Crime
Born in Israel under the name Shimon Hayut and raised in New York City, Leviev had been accused of fraud and trickery long before the Netflix documentary went live last week.
According to The Times of Israel, he fled his home country in 2011 after being charged with stealing a checkbook from the home of a family that employed him as a babysitter.
Authorities believe he snuck across the Jordanian border and made his way to Europe, where he allegedly began working his trademark scheme: pretending to date women only to con them out of their life savings and disappear.
Hayut was arrested in Finland in 2015, where courts sentenced him to three years in prison for fraud, foreign sources report.
He was released early in 2017 and sent back to Israel where he still faced charges stemming from the 2011 checkbook scam, but he skipped bail and ran to Europe again, this time fleeing the country under an assumed name and identity: Simon Leviev, the fictional son of Soviet-born diamond mogul Lev Leviev.
Simon Leviev Was Born
Posing as the scion of a billionaire mining tycoon, Leviev allegedly got to work scoping out would-be marks across Europe.
According to foreign reporting, the scam worked like this: Leviev would meet women on the dating app Tinder, before whisking them away on private jets to lavish dates at high-end restaurants and showering them with expensive gifts.
After earning their trust, Leviev would allegedly tell his “girlfriends” that he was in some sort of grave danger from “enemies” who were demanding large sums of money. He’d reportedly encourage them to take out bank loans or empty their life savings and wire them over, promising to pay them back in full.
Instead, he’d ghost them, reports claim — breaking off all contact with the victims and using some of their stolen money to seduce the next one, according to the Times.
Authorities believe Leviev ran this Ponzi scheme (or some version of it) for years, racking up $10 million, until he was arrested at a Greek airport with a fake passport in 2019. He was sentenced to 15 months for the 2011 checkbook theft, but only served five months before being released amid Covid-19 concerns and remains a free man as of 2022.
On Instagram Monday, Leviev responded to allegations in the documentary.
“If I was a fraud why would I act on Netflix,” he said in a post to his story. “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 world they want they’ll turn yours to hell. I will be addressing the whole world on Friday,” he continued. “Stay tuned and tag others. Say my name #simontruth.”
Hours later, his page appeared to be deleted.
Simon Leviev’s Victims Got Together
Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjöholm and Ayleen Charlotte — three women who claim Leviev took them for £600,000 (about $800,000 USD) — said they received overwhelming support from the public since opening up on the new Netflix documentary.
Now, the alleged victims are hoping to use that momentum to recoup some of their losses.
“So, the girls today — Pernilla, Ayleen and myself — have decided after careful consideration to open up a GoFundMe, an official one, where we are trying to get some funds for all of us,” Fjellhøy said in a video on Instagram.
“We know that there’s a lot of other things people might want to help others with, but if you want to support us, thank you so much,” she added.
So far, Netflix viewers seem to be putting their money where their mouths are. As of Monday, less than 48 hours after the crowdfunding page went live, the women have raised more than $31,000 of their $800,000 goal.
The alleged victims said they were inspired to create the page after concerned viewers who saw the documentary began contacting them to ask how they could help.
“So many people reached out to us asking if we had one, and it hadn’t occurred to us to make one prior to this,” the women wrote on GoFundMe.
“However, we’ve spotted plenty of fakes, which makes us uneasy. We don’t want more people getting defrauded,” they added.
“All we want are our lives back.”