How A Man Bankrupted Three Women And Became Known As The 'Tinder Swindler'
Three women are fighting back after a man they thought was a diamond heir scammed them out of millions of dollars.
Picture taken on July 1, 2019 shows the so-called "Tinder swindler" as he is expelled from the city of Athens, Greece. - Police in Greece on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 said they had arrested an Israeli man accused of fraud, named in media reports as the "Tinder swindler" who allegedly defrauded European women he met on the dating site. The suspect has been described in news reports as 28-year-old Simon Hayut. According to Norway's Verdens Gang newspaper, the suspect presented himself as the son of an Israeli multi-millionaire and had defrauded women in Norway, Finland and Sweden out of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund a lavish lifestyle.
TORE KRISTIANSEN/AFP via Getty Images
The whirlwind romance between Cecilie Fjellhøy and Simon Leviev was something out of a fairytale. She met the Israeli man on Tinder and the two struck up a conversation.
Within a month, they were looking for apartments together. He was rich and handsome, and he told her he was a member of the Leviev diamond family and heir to a fortune. He was living an apparently luxurious life with expensive clothing, watches, cars, and paid bodyguards to protect him as he traveled the world.
It wasn’t long before Leviev called from a work trip and told her that his life was in danger and that he needed her to front him some money. He swore he would pay it back.
According to the Brown Daily Herald, Leviev eventually took $250,000 from Fjellhøy after convincing her to max out credit cards and take out loans.
The money was gone forever, and Fjellhøy wasn’t his first—or last—victim.
The man who introduced himself as Leviev was born Shimon Hayut in a city to the east of Tel Aviv, Israel. He legally changed his name to Simon Leviev to make his diamond mogul story more believable. According to The Times of Israel, Leviev’s crimes began more than a decade ago when he was charged with theft, forgery, and fraud in 2011 after he reportedly stole checkbooks and forged checks to himself.
Leviev fled Israel prior to his sentencing on those charges, but he surfaced in Finland where he was sentenced to two years in prison for defrauding three women in 2015. When he was released in 2017, he was sent back to Israel to face the 2011 charges, but he managed to leave the country and flee to Europe again.
It was then that he met Fjellhøy, and she was followed by Pernilla Sjöholm and Ayleen Charlotte, all of them women he connected with on Tinder and then convinced them to send him large amounts of cash.
Leviev was finally arrested in Greece in 2019 for using a fake passport and was extradited back to Israel to answer for his original 2011 crimes. In December 2019, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison, though he was released after just five months due to the threat of Covid-19 spreading among the inmates.
According to a GoFundMe set up for the three women, Fjellhøy is attempting to recover $375,000, Sjöholm is seeking $295,000, and Charlotte needs $134,000 to help cover the loans, interest, fees, and legal expenses Leviev left in his wake. So far, they’ve raised about $226,000 of the combined $804,000 fundraising goal.
Leviev is now banned from Tinder and other dating sites, and he is reportedly wanted for other financial crimes in Israel, the United Kingdom, and Europe.
On March 1, lawyers for the real Leviev family announced that they’d filed a lawsuit in Israeli magistrate court against the alleged con man for misrepresenting himself and using their name for “receiving numerous benefits.”