Just like reading the disclaimer before you put down your money on gambling, you’re also warned (often) to be cautious about who you meet on dating apps. The Tinder Swindler, a recent Netflix true-crime documentary, is a perfect example of this gone awry. Simon Leviev, alias Shimon Yehuda Hayut, is the lead con man in The Tinder Swindler, which followed Robert Hendy-Freegard from The Puppet Master, another Netflix film about a con man. These con men shared several characteristics. Both enjoy the excitement of living a lavish lifestyle, both prey on women to steal money from them, and both, despite their crimes, are now free men. Three women came forward in The Tinder Swindler with their own horrible experiences of falling for Simon’s charms.

What is the true identity of the Tinder swindler, aka Simon Leviev?

A skilled hustler

Shimon Yehuda Hayut is a skilled hustler who changed his identity to Simon Leviev in 2017. His primary reason is to appear connected to millionaire Lev Leviev, the “King of Diamonds.” However, he has nothing to do with the Leviev family, but the name carries such weight, especially when Googled. So, bearing the name Leviev was enough to make it look like his lavish lifestyle was supported by “family” funds. Simon LEVIEV

Family history

He is from a low-income family in Tel Aviv, Israel. When The Tinder Swindler crew sought to learn more about Simon’s family background, his mother stated that she hadn’t seen him since he was 18 years old.

Series of fraudulent acts

After being sought by the authorities for fraud, he departed Israel at 18. In 2011, he was charged with stealing checks from an employer. He failed to appear in court because he fled the country using a false passport. In another encounter, Simon received a sentence of three years in jail in Finland in 2015 for aggravated fraud. It involved defrauding three ladies by claiming to be in the weapons industry. Using the same antics, he took money from them. With all these offences, Simon Leviev was deported to Israel. Then, he changed his name to Leviev and escaped before his court date. After that, he met the first woman who appeared in The Tinder Swindler in January 2018.

How Simon chooses the next victim

Simon would frequently meet his targets on Tinder. He would pique their interest with a profile that boasted beautiful attire and a five-star lifestyle. He also never missed profile details like a private aircraft and exquisite dinners.

Romantic gestures

He would also spend thousands on romantic gestures, fancy hotels, and international vacations to woo his targets. Then after a few months, he will begin to pull the rug out from under them. He will tell his lovers that his enemies are going after him, mainly because he is doing business in the diamond industry. He will also show them proof that he is experiencing life-threatening attacks.

The beloved in distress

To do this, Simon would send images and videos of his security guy, Peter, who appears to be beaten up in the back of an ambulance. This is to show proof of an alleged assassination attempt against him. After, he’d ask the woman of interest for her credit card so that his enemies won’t be able to track him. Then, he’d promise the women to offer to pay them back. But he won’t be able to do it right away. Why? Because he needs to stay under the radar and off the grid for fear of losing his life.

Generous act

Because the ladies love him and care for him, they would comply, afraid for his safety. They also believed that he had the money to repay them because of their experience with him. After gaining their trust, he would build up huge debts under their names. Then, he’d pay back some of the fees as a gesture of good faith. Little do they know that he already forged bank transfer receipts as if he had already transferred the money to them. Then, he would blame the bank for the failed transactions. He was wanted in more than seven countries for fraud throughout the years. However, he became difficult to track down since he used other people’s credit cards while on the move. As a result, Interpol finally issued a red notice for him.

Simon’s strategies

Simon’s strategy was described as a pyramid scheme in the film. So how does he do it? First, he’d take money from a woman to pay for his affairs in another. Then, he will use that money to pay for the next, and so on.

What his lovers went through

In the video, Cecilie Fjellhøy, who met Simon in January 2018, feared for her “boyfriend” when he indicated he had to leave for Stockholm. However, when he was there, he phoned a friend, Pernilla Sjöholm, and spent thousands of dollars on a wild night out before returning to Barcelona. Pernilla reveals that she met Simon on Tinder and that they didn’t have a sexual relationship but stayed friends since they shared interests. When they could, they would get together for supper or holidays. However, he eventually fooled her when he used their friendship to help him out from the “dangers” he is going through at the moment.

Another lover

He met Polina on one of his travels in Mykonos, Greece. Where did they stay? In a $5,000-per-night hotel. On the other hand, Cecilie believed he would be meeting her family in Oslo. But then, he said he couldn’t make it for security concerns while simultaneously spending $25,000 in three days using the credit card she provided him. He also forced her to take out loans, get new credit cards, and increase her credit card limit. But, of course, his alibi is still about his life being on the line. The entire cost of the invoices eventually amounted to $250,000.

How his ‘lovers’ found out the truth

Cecilie finally reached her breaking point and requested the money back from Simon. As a response, he called her to meet in Amsterdam. Feigning word of honor, he handed her a $500,000.00 check upon her arrival. However, when she returned to London, the check bounced. She called Simon to clarify the incident, but he refused to assist her. This compelled her to investigate further. Cecilie eventually learned the truth after American Express called her out for mounting credit. They implicitly led her to discover that Simon Leviev had duped her with other women.

The heartbroken Cecilie

“It was awful because I still loved him, or at least the guy I thought he was. You know it’s all a fake, yet you’re still on the phone with this story,” Cecilie clarified. “I’m baffled as to how anybody could be so wicked. He seemed to recognize me.”

Simon threatens Cecilie

After blocking him and returning to Norway, Simon became enraged and began leaving threatening messages on her mother’s phone, demanding more money and reminding her that he had all her personal information, including her family addresses and passport information. Cecilie sought psychiatric help after feeling out of her depth and on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Cecilie found Simon’s conviction in Finland while in the mental-health hospital and sought aid from a newspaper because the police were unwilling to help.

Payback time

Through the help of a prominent local newspaper, Cecilie was finally linked to Pernilla. Meanwhile, she still accumulates debt, losing more than $40,000, believing that her boyfriend was on the run for his life.

More women came forward

Many more women came forward after recognizing Simon from news about The Tinder Swindler circulating online. Ayleen Charlotte, Simon’s then-girlfriend, was among them. As she sat on a plane home after visiting him, she was so taken aback by the news that she sent it to her boyfriend of 14 months, demanding an explanation. Ayleen had received hundreds of missed calls and WhatsApp messages when the plane landed. Using the same antics of sending photos of his bloodied self and his bodyguard Peter, Simon had racked up a $140,000 credit debt from Ayleen.  

How he was arrested

When the police indicated they needed “more time to establish a case,” Ayleen took matters into her own hands. She connected with Pernilla on Instagram, and set about catching him. Although Simon claimed that his imagined enemies hired the ladies to peddle tales about him, Ayleen feigned to believe him. She continued to show sympathy when he said he was trapped in Prague. After he requested that she sell her vehicle and property to support him further, she offered to sell his high-end clothing instead.

Swindling the Tinder Swindler

Ayleen volunteered to handle his sales because she works in the luxury fashion market. She also travelled to meet him to present a credit card under ‘David Sharon’ before packing his belongings. After their unfateful meeting, Ayleen cut him off and sold all his designer clothes on eBay to retrieve the money he had taken from her. While the documentary film is still in the works, she said she is still cashing in on the goods he’d given her to sell. When Simon realized what she’d done, he was enraged and sent her hundreds of horribly hateful and threatening voicemails screaming down the phone. “It was a dreadful experience… yet a part of me enjoyed watching him squirm,” Ayleen said to the cameras.

Another escape

Ayleen was still in her quest for retribution. She was able to pull her final act when he asked her to pay for a trip to Greece. Because he’s “always hooked to his phone,” Ayleen assumed he was on a flight when her WhatsApp messages didn’t go through. After running a quick Google search, she learned the trip’s schedule from Prague to Athens, which is synced to when he went offline. She submitted these details to the police, claiming he was travelling under the name David Sharon on a phony passport.

Intercepted by the Interpol

Interpol seized Simon Leviev at the airport and deported him to Israel for his outstanding offences. “He’d never believe it if I told him I could do it.” Ayleen chuckles at the camera before waving and smiling, saying, “Hi Simon!”  

What happened to Simon?

Simon was last seen in Israel, where he had served just five months of a 15-month sentence for his crimes. He started a business mentorship website after his release. He still lives an opulent lifestyle that he brags about online, including owning a Rolls Royce and a Ferrari. Still pulling tricks up in his sleeves, he claimed to be a paramedic in December 2020 to receive the Covid vaccination early. He also informed Israel’s Channel 12 that he was “not a line-waiter.” Simon, his business partner, and bodyguard Peter are yet to be prosecuted for cheating the three ladies in the Netflix documentary. Meanwhile, the swindled ladies are still paying off their debts. “We have done internal checks and can confirm Simon Leviev is no longer active on Tinder under any of his known identities,” Tinder said in a statement.