The director of The Tinder Swindler admitted that while she was cynical after hearing tales of women duped by the scammer, she soon found the victims were incredible and bright’ people.
Israeli playboy Shimon Hayut, then in his late 20s, lured in trusting women by claiming he was Simon Leviev, the son of businessman Lev Leviev, who has an estimated $1billion net worth.
He called himself the ‘Prince of Diamonds’, but in reality, Hayut was a serial fraudster who used his charm to prey on unsuspecting singleton using online dating apps, earning him the moniker the ‘Tinder swindler’.
Following the release of the Tinder Swindler documentary on Netflix, Shimon – who spent five months in prison for a separate crime – was banned from creating profiles on the platform after violating its terms and conditions.
Appearing on This Morning today, documentary director Felicity Morris said she wanted to make a film which ‘involved audiences in the con’ and helped them to understand the emotion behind the scam.
She appeared alongside Cecilie Fjellhoy, one of the scammer’s victims who was conned out of £200,000, who said she is speaking out against ‘victim-blaming and shaming’.
Appearing on This Morning today, The Tinder Swindler director Felicity Morris admitted that while she was cynical after hearing tales of women duped by the scammer, she soon found the victims were incredible and bright’ women
Israeli playboy Shimon Hayut, then in his late 20s, lured in trusting women by claiming he was Simon Leviev, the son of businessman Lev Leviev, who has an estimated $1billion net worth
‘It crossed our desk because of the fact Cecilie had gone to the press in Norway and the story they wrote which we feature in the film just went viral and was picked up here’, said Felicity.
‘I think you read that [top line] and think “How on earth could that have happened?” and I think with emotional cons like these, generally speaking people come to them with a bit of cynicism.
‘I think you think, “How on earth could that have happened to someone?” and don’t truly understand the emotional side of it.
‘So when I first met Cecilie and Pernilla and they started talking about their story I just thought, “Oh my goodness, these girls are incredible, they’re similar age as me, in the same world as I am, dating apps, similar women, bright, smart women, well- travelled, cosmopolitan”.
Cecilie Fjellhoy, one of the scammer’s victims who was conned out of £200,000 appeared on This Morning to speak out against ‘victim-blaming and shaming’
Cecilie Fjellhøy (pictured, with Shimon Heyada Hayut) has teamed up with Ayleen Koeleman, and Pernilla Sjoholm, who featured in Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler, to launch a fundraiser
In the Netflix documentary, Pernilla Sjöholm, right, revealed how Shimon defrauded her of thousands of dollars
‘I knew I wanted to make a film that put their stories front and center and involve the audience in the con.’
Cecilie added: ‘It’s the victim blaming and shaming we really want to talk about. I think fraud is the last crime where the victim is being blamed. It was about rape before and I feel it’s the same here, I just don’t get it.’
While it’s unclear how many people fell for the scam, it is estimated that he conned victims all across the world out of £7.4 million.
He would shower women he met on the dating app with lavish trips and gifts, using money he had taken from other women. He would then ask for more money under the guise of needing to protect his identity due to security concerns.
Among Hayut’s victims was Norwegian graduate Cecilie, who was living in London when she matched with Leviev.
Their first date involved a trip on a private plane to Bulgaria, and they would exchange love notes over text, videos and voice messages.
The conman would use the money he acquired from other victims to impress single women with an expensive lifestyle and lavish gifts. It is unclear how many other people fell for the scam but it is estimated that he conned his victims out of £7.4 million
Several dating apps have banned the fraudster known as the Tinder Swindler, after a documentary showed he used their services to contact women
Hayut told Fjellhoy that he had to travel constantly for work and that it was hard for him to visit her in London due to threats from working in the diamond business, it has been reported.
The conman first asked Fjellhoy to take out a line of credit for him in her name just four weeks into their relationship, claiming that it was a security measure due to threats against him.
He spent the money on plane tickets, hotels and dinners that were booked under her name to throw off suspicious ‘enemies’.
‘He asked “For my security, can I use your name”, said Cecilie. ‘He was very clever, can I use your name, borrow your credit card for a couple of weeks just to travel and continue his business, it started small.’
Fjellhoy said Hayut promised to pay her back but, but as the weeks rolled by, her debt continued to stack up.
‘I think you always have hindsight but in the end you become more mentally drained because you’re under so much pressure and I had eight or nine creditors coming after me’, she said.
‘He turned on me at the end he was saying he had lost the deal he was working on, physically my body was telling me you need to do something, I was nearly throwing up.’
He was finally arrested in 2019 while using a fake passport in Greece, pictured. However, he only served five of his 15 months prison sentence
After three months, the relationship was all but over and Cecilie was told by her bank that the conman was under investigation for scamming other women.
‘When I realised I was the last in a string of three or four women, it was more that there were others and you felt cheated on at first, she said.
‘You can’t comprehend that person was never your boyfriend, all the loving moments you had with him were never real. When I blocked him I cried, it’s insane what brainwashing can do.’
Cecilie, who soon after the discovery checked herself into a psychiatric unit, says she told the world her story after police refused to take her seriously.
‘That was my main thing’, she said. ‘The police did not take me seriously. They were just shrugging their shoulders, I said “he needs to be stopped”. it was not happening quickly enough.’
Hayut was wanted for unrelated crimes and had been on the run since 2011 when he fled Israel to avoid charges for fraud, theft and forgery in his early 20s.
Hayut was eventually arrested and imprisoned in December 2019 at Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court. The Tinder scheme was not included in his charges.
However he was released the following May, after serving five months of his 15-month sentence.