Swipe, swipe, swipe… It’s not easy finding love online, but Cecilie Fjellhoy thought she finally met her prince charming in 2019 when she matched with Simon Leviev, the beguiling scion of an Israeli diamond dynasty.
Fjellhoy, 29 at the time, was a Norwegian graduate student living in London when she was swept off her feet by the self-proclaimed, ‘Prince of Diamonds.’ Leviev, then 28, was a handsome billionaire playboy who organized a private plane to take them to Bulgaria from London on their first date.
‘When I first talked with Simon, we immediately had a bond,’ says Fjellhoy in an upcoming Netflix doc. ‘It felt like stepping into a movie.’
Though what began as a fairytale romance quickly soured into a cautionary tale in the dangers of online dating – one that left Fjellhoy $200,000 in debt and fearing for her safety.
In reality, Simon Leviev was actually Shimon Hayut, a convicted conman who served three years in Finnish prison for defrauding several women in order to fund his lavish lifestyle of private jets, fast cars and luxury hotels.
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.
Now those victims share their story in The Tinder Swindler, an absorbing new Netflix documentary from the dream team behind of The Imposter and Don’t F**k with Cats.
Premiering on February 2, the feature film promises to tell ‘the jaw-dropping story of a prolific conman who posed as a billionaire playboy on Tinder, and the women who set out to bring him down.’
Cecilie Fjellhoy was a 29-year old, Norwegian graduate student living in London when she was swept off her feet by the self-proclaimed, ‘Prince of Diamonds.’ Leviev, then 28, was a handsome billionaire playboy who organized a private plane to take them to Bulgaria from London on their first date. The new Netflix doc focuses on three of his victims, Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm and speaking for the first time, Ayleen Koeleman
Simon Leviev was actually Shimon Hayut, a convicted conman who previously served three years in Finnish prison for defrauding several women in order to fund his lavish lifestyle of private jets, fast cars and luxury hotels. The serial scam artist used his charm to prey on women he met through online dating apps, earning him the moniker the ‘Tinder swindler’
Hayut asked Fjellhoy (right) to open a line of credit so he could pay his expenses under her name to protect himself from his ‘enemies’
Shimon Hayut had been on the run for years when he was finally arrested in 2019 while using a fake passport in Greece. He had been a fugitive of Israel since 2011, wanted for fraud, theft and forgery, and skipping out on sentencing twice.
In the meantime, Hayut hopscotched around Europe, living lavishly off the savings of unsuspecting ladies he conned into trusting him.
The serial fraudster did a two year stint in a Finnish prison for swindling three women in 2015. When he was sent back to Israel in 2017 to face charges for his previous offenses, Hayut fled the country again with a new assumed identity.
By the time he met Cecilie Fjellhoy in January 2018, Hayut was posing as ‘Simon Leviev,’ son of the billionaire Russian-Israeli diamond mogul, Lev Leviev. He claimed to be a high-powered CEO for LDD Diamonds who constantly traveled for work.
‘He tells me that his dad is the ‘King of Diamonds,’ and that means I’m the prince,’ said Fjellhoy.
To make his claims more believable, Hayut legally changed his last name to Leviev and hired a team of fake assistants, business partners and a bodyguard to make his story more credible.
The fraudster first invited Fjellhoy to meet for coffee at the Four Seasons in London after the pair matched on Tinder. Upon finishing their drink, he asked the blonde graduate student if she wanted to join him on his private jet for a business trip to Bulgaria, leaving that afternoon. Fjellhoy told Norwegian news site Verdens Gang that she felt reassured by his ‘team’ of employees that were joining them.
What proceeded next was a whirlwind long distance romance that involved daily love notes over text, videos and voice messages exchanged on Whatsapp.
‘This was the first time where I felt like: ‘Oh my god I really like him. And it seems that he really likes me back as well,” Fjellhoy said to Nightline on ABC in 2019.
Among the excessive love overtures, Hayut sent clips of himself on private jets, driving Ferraris and closeups of his luxury watches.
‘I never felt this way, if you had told me I wouldn’t even imagine it or believe it,’ he said in a voice note that Fjellhoy shared with Verdens Gang.
‘I love you my future wife,’ he said in another.
Cecilie Fjellhoy (left) said the hardest part of the ordeal was that she loved ‘Simon Leviev.’ Shimon Hayut (right) posed as Simon Leviev – the ‘Prince of Diamonds’ – son of the Jewish billionaire diamond mine owner Lev Leviev
Funding the jetset lifestyle for Hayut and his ‘team’ added up fast. In just 54 days, the handsome Israeli imposter racked up $224,220 on Fjellhoy’s American Express on private jets, luxury hotels, Louboutins in Bangkok, Gucci in Barcelona, the Ritz Carlton in Berlin and the Conservatory in Amsterdam. Fjellhoy believed he would repay her, she said: ‘If you can afford to take a private jet to Oslo for an hour, it seems only logical that you can pay back any money I lend you’
With her Amex maxed out, Fjellhoy opened ten more lines of credit to continue paying for her crook-boyfriend. She took out a loan to pay off her credit cards, but the money Hayut promised to repay wasn’t coming in
In June 2019, Hayut was arrested in Greece following a joint operation between Interpol and Israeli police. Israeli authorities requested his extradition to his home country, where he had been wanted on charges of theft, forgery and fraud since 2011
From early on, Hayut hinted at the inherent danger in being involved in the diamond industry, and claimed that he couldn’t visit Fjellhoy in London because of threats he was receiving from enigmatic enemies.
He even went as far as sending photos of himself and his bodyguard in the hospital, after alleging they were ‘attacked.’
Fjellhoy fell for it, hook, line and sinker. Four weeks into their courtship, the conman asked her to take out a massive line of credit for him, explaining that it was a precautionary security measure to avoid leaving a paper trail in his name.
As per his instructions, she filled out an application for an American Express Platinum Card and he told her to file an income of $200,000, assuring her that nobody would check it.
‘It felt good to be able to give it to him and say, ‘Here’s my credit card. I managed it,’ said Fjellhoy to the Norwegian news outlet.
The fraudster spent the money on plane tickets, hotels and dinners that were booked under her name to throw off suspicious ‘enemies’.
‘One of the main reasons why he needed it was protection…he needed my name as a cover, he said,’ Fjellhoy told Nightline in 2019. ‘I know it sounds crazy…[but] why would he have this giant guy with him if he didn’t need the protection?,’ she said, apparently referring to a bodyguard.
Funding the jetset lifestyle for Hayut and his ‘team’ added up fast. In just 54 days, the handsome Israeli imposter spent two million Norwegian krone ($224,220) on Louboutins in Bangkok, on Gucci in Barcelona, at the Ritz Carlton in Berlin and the Conservatory in Amsterdam.
With her Amex maxed out, Fjellhoy opened ten more lines of credit to continue paying for her crook-boyfriend. She took out a loan to pay off her credit cards, but the money Hayut promised to repay wasn’t coming in.
‘My angel My love I just talked to the bank and they told me that the [transfer] of Amex will be there on Monday thousand percent,’ read one text message Hayut sent her. He also added a bank letter from TD Bank attesting to a bank transfer in the amount of $500,000 to her account, but that document was forged.
After three months, the relationship was all but over. Fjellhoy said the moment she finally realized Hayut had stolen her money was ‘such a shock’.
‘I almost wanted to throw up, it was the first time in my life that I had gotten such a shock that my body physically was telling me that, ‘OK your life is ruined,’ everything came crashing down around me,’ she told Nightline on ABC.
In the Netflix trailer Fjellhoy recalls: ‘That’s when police tell me, the man I love was never real, everything’s a lie.’
Pernilla Sjoholm (left) and Cecilie Fjellhoy (right) team up with another victim, Ayleen Koeleman to tell their story in a new Netflix doc that follows them as they uncover his ‘Simon Leviev’s’ true identity and fight to bring him to justice
After three months, the relationship between Fjellhoy and Hayut was all but over. She said the moment she finally realized he had stolen her money was ‘such a shock’. ‘I almost wanted to throw up, it was the first time in my life that I had gotten such a shock that my body physically was telling me that, ‘OK your life is ruined,’ everything came crashing down around me’
Pernilla Sjoholm first met Shimon Hayut (posing as Simon Leviev) on Tinder in March 2018. ‘He was smart and funny and very impulsive’ she says in the Netflix trailer
Hayut is also under investigation for fraud in the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany
By then, fake Russian oligarch had moved on to his next victim, a Swedish woman named Pernilla Sjoholm, whom he splurged over $10,000 on taking to the opera in a limousine.
They first met on Tinder in March 2018. ‘He was smart and funny and very impulsive’ says Pernilla Sjoholm in the Netflix trailer for The Tinder Swindler.
‘This may sound strange,’ Sjoholm told Verdens Gang, ‘But he’s very thoughtful.’
It wasn’t until eight months into their relationship that Hyut asked to borrow $45,000. He repaid her with valuable watch that she later discovered was fake.
Shortly after loaning him the money, Pernilla discovered that she had been swindled when an investigative reporter for Verdens Gang, contacted her to explain that they were researching the case of a serial fraudster. Together, they set up a sting operation to stop Shimon Hayut from his continuing his scam.
‘He’s not your everyday swindler,’ she says. ‘This man is in a league of his own.’
New Netflix documentary ‘tells the jaw-dropping story of a prolific conman who posed as a billionaire playboy on Tinder, and the women who set out to bring him down’
When she finally confronted the man who she once called a ‘friend,’ he responded with little remorse: ‘Pernilla if you double cross me, I can tell you right now that you will pay for it for the rest of your life.’
Via text message in May 2019, Shimon Hayut told ABC’s Nightline that he was innocent and that the accusations against him were merely about ‘a loan between friends that went south.’ He added: ‘They used me for my life they got expensive gifts and everything, in other words gold diggers.’
The fake billionaire fugitive was finally captured in June 2019 during a joint operation between Interpol and Israeli Police.
Shimon Hayut was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay his victims $43,289 in compensation in December 2019, but was released after only serving five months.
‘How can you give trust to a man like that, who escaped from Israel twice?’ responded Pernilla Sjoholm to the news. ‘A man that deceived and swindled women in Europe for hundreds of thousands of euros. Where is the justice?’ she said.
Turns out, she was right. Once a conman, always a conman, Hayut was accused of lying his way into receiving an early vaccine dose when they were only being administered to medical workers, those over the age of 60 and at-risk groups,
He told The Times of Israel: ‘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.’