Tinder Swindler is the new true-crime documentary on Netflix you don’t want to miss.
In a world where online dating is the new norm, the Tinder Swindler from British filmmaker Felicity Morris raises one of the scariest questions of all: what if somebody you meet isn’t the person they say they are?
The Tinder Swindler is told through the eyes of three brave women—Cecile Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and, speaking for the first time, Ayleen Charlotte. They all dated a man they once knew as Simon Leviev, and a bizarre course of events led them to realize Leviev was not they thought he was.
Simon Leviev is a conman, who posed as the heir to an Israeli diamond company. In total, it is believed he has defrauded his victims out of more than $10 million.
Tinder Swindler director Felicity Morris and producer Bernie Higgins spoke to Newsweek about the crimes of Simon Leviev, where he is today, and Cecile, Pernilla, and Ayleen’s fight for justice.
Where Is Simon Leviev?
Today, Simon Leviev (real name Shimon Hayut) is living life as a free man in Israel. In 2019, Simon was arrested in Athens, Greece after traveling on a false Israeli passport.
At the time, Simon was subject to an international warrant from Israel for various fraud-related offenses. He had fled the country in 2017 to avoid fleeing trial.
The arrest was a part of a joint operation between Interpol and Israeli police and he was ultimately extradited to Israel, where he pleaded guilty to the fraud charges against him.
In December 2019, he was sentenced to 15 months in a Tel Aviv prison and ordered to pay $43,289 but only served five months of his sentence. He was released as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-2020.
Simon, who called himself “the prince of diamonds,” was never charged for defrauding three women—Cecile Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte—out of thousands of pounds.
However, if it wasn’t for these ladies working together, Simon may never have been caught in the first place.
Cecile Fjellhoy first took her shocking story to Norway’s biggest newspaper, Verdens Gang (VG). Scammed out of $20,000, Cecile realized her boyfriend Simon Leviev was a fraud after he failed to pay back his debt on her American Express card.
The team of Norwegian journalists at VG were able to trace another one of Leviev’s victims, his close “friend” Pernilla Sjoholm, who was able to lead them to Leviev in Munich.
During their research, they uncovered Leviev had served two years in a Finnish prison for scamming three women in 2015. Cecile and Pernilla were determined to see him behind bars again.
Between leaving Israel in 2017 and his arrest in 2019, Simon had posed as the son of billionaire Russian-Israeli diamond mogul, Lev Leviev on Tinder. Simon Leviev set up convincing schemes where he pretended his life was in danger and that his enemies in the diamond trade were after him.
As a result, he couldn’t leave a paper trail and needed to use the credit cards of his “girlfriends” and “friends.”
Leviev would eventually be caught when his then-girlfriend, Ayleen Charlotte, saw the VG article online whilst boarding a flight from Amsterdam to Prague. She was able to alert the authorities when Leviev boarded a flight to Athens, Greece, where he was then greeted by Interpol, who arrested him on long-standing charges of fraud.
But, Leviev has not been charged with his crimes against Cecile, Pernilla, Ayleen, and countless others, and they continue their fight for justice to this day.
Felicity Morris told Newsweek: “He’s actually never been charged with the crimes, the allegations that we make against him in the firm. And you know, Cecilia and Alyeen and Pernilla would love for him to see his day in court. They’ve got stacks and stacks of evidence.
“He was convicted of minor crimes that he committed when he was much younger in Israel. So, you know, he served the time for those until he was released early because of COVID. Which was fortunate for him. And I think that is a huge blow for his victims to sort of see the way he’s living his life today.
“Up until recently, his Instagram was open, it wasn’t set to private and Simon’s driving around in Ferraris. 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’,
“What we’ve hoped with this film—and Cecilia really started the relay race or held the baton first—is that it will act as justice for them in some way. 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.”
Leviev was also asked to be a part of the documentary, but he declined, sending director Felicity Morris and her team a voice note, stating: “I will proceed with a lawsuit against you for defamation, lies and everything you have based basically on a lie, and that’s it.”
He has shared his life via his now-private Instagram, where he would show videos of himself buying designer clothes, driving expensive cars, and purchasing the latest watches and technology.
At the end of the documentary, it is also revealed Simon has been back on Tinder and dating an Israeli model.
Tinder Swindler producer Bernie Higgins shared her thoughts with Newsweek on why Simon has been able to get away with his crimes for so long.
She shared: “There’s nothing as convincing, generally, in life as confidence. If somebody is able to tell you a story and in an extremely confident way, you’re more inclined to believe them. For most human beings, you would never dream of deceiving people that much. So, therefore, you don’t really come from that point of view. Unless you’re a super, super cynical person, then there wasn’t any reason to doubt him.
“With so much verification from not only his online life but also his offline life, these women were basically in immersive theatre without their knowledge. So in terms of that, I really do think it was just his sheer brass neck to be honest with you that that got him so far.”
Simon hit headlines recently after he impersonated a frontline worker so that he could receive a COVID-19 vaccination, reports The Times of Israel.
In a phone interview with Channel 12 who first reported the news, Hayut said: “I am not someone who waits in line or at places. With all due respect, I will not sit and wait 3-4 hours. I am not someone who waits and no one can say a word about it.”
The Tinder Swindler is streaming on Netflix now.