We may never know Shimon Hayut’s actual net worth, but we can assume that he isn't the millionaire he claimed to be on Tinder when he defrauded European women out of thousands of dollars.
Hayut’s story is the subject of the new Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, which starts streaming on Feb. 2. From the producers of The Imposter and Don’t F**k With Cats, The Tinder Swindler shows how a woman named Cecilie teams up with others to find Hayut and bring him to justice.
“It’s not easy to find love online, so when Cecilie matches with a handsome billionaire playboy, she can’t quite believe it when he turns out to be the man of her dreams,” the documentary’s synopsis teases. “But dreams aren’t reality and by the time she discovers this international businessman isn’t who he says he is, it’s too late. He’s taken her for everything. Where this fairytale ends, a revenge thriller begins.”
Hayut started racking up fraud charges more than 10 years ago.
According to The Times of Israel, Hayut faced legal trouble for the better part of a decade. He was charged with theft, forgery, and fraud in Israel in 2011 after allegedly stealing two checkbooks—one from a family whose child he was babysitting and another during a handyman gig—and then cashing the stolen checks.
Before his sentencing, Hayut fled Israel for Finland, where he committed more crimes. Finnish officials charged Hayut in 2015 for defrauding three women and sentenced him to two years in jail. He returned to Israel in 2017, but before he could be re-charged and sentenced on fraud-related offenses, he changed names and left the country again.
Hayut passed himself off as “a prince of diamonds,” the son of billionaire Lev Leviev.
After fleeing Israel the second time, Hayut traveled throughout Europe and pretended to be Simon Leviev, a “prince of diamonds” whose father was Russian-Israeli diamond businessman Lev Leviev, a man with an estimated net worth of $1 billion, according to the Daily Mail. Under this ruse, Hayut used Tinder to trick women into giving him money, using loans from previous marks to wine and dine new targets before asking them for loans for his business, as The Times reported.
Hayut was arrested in Greece in the summer of 2019 after he used a fake passport, and he was extradited to Israel that October, according to The Times. In December 2019, Hayut was sentenced by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to 15 months in prison. The court ordered Hayut to pay his victims ILS 150,000 ($47,319) and pay a fine of ILS 20,000 ($6,309) after being convicted of four fraud charges and reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.
Hayut served a fraction of his prison sentence, which angered his alleged fraud victims.
In May 2020, The Times of Israel reported that Hayut had been released from prison after five months of his 15-month sentence due to COVID-19 outbreaks among prison populations.
The news of Hayut's release stunned those who said he conned them. “I was in shock from the decision to release him,” Stockholm resident Pernilla Sjoholm said in a TV interview with Israel’s Channel 12, according to The Times. “How can you give trust to a man like that, who escaped from Israel twice? A man that deceived and swindled women in Europe for hundreds of thousands of euros. Where is the justice?”
A Finnish woman identified as “D” had stronger words for Hayut, who she said swindled 45,000 euros ($50,628) from her. “I’m a single mom to a daughter and I gave him all the savings I had,” she told Channel 12. “It’s a disgrace that they released him from prison. I hope he gets the coronavirus. I hope he dies. That’s better, so he won’t hurt other women.”