Israeli ‘Tinder swindler’ sentenced to 15 months in prison

Shimon Hayut could potentially only serve two months after conning women across Europe for years

Shimon Hayut, the so-called 'Tinder Swindler,' is expelled from the city of Athens, Greece, on July 1, 2019. (Tore KRISTIANSEN/various sources/AFP)
Shimon Hayut, the so-called 'Tinder Swindler,' is expelled from the city of Athens, Greece, on July 1, 2019. (Tore KRISTIANSEN/various sources/AFP)

An Israeli man who defrauded women across Scandinavia out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by presenting himself on the dating app Tinder as the son of a wealthy oligarch was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay his victims NIS 150,000 ($43,289) in compensation by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Shimon Hayut, known colloquially as the “Tinder swindler,” was also ordered to pay a fine of NIS 20,000 ($5,771) under the terms of a plea deal that he reached with prosecutors after being convicted of four fraud charges.

According to Hebrew news reports, after time served is deducted from his sentence and assuming early release for good behavior, which is common practice in Israel, he could potentially be released after serving only two months of his sentence.

During his sentencing hearing, Hayut told the court that he was “sorry about everything” he had done and promised to “pay my debt to society,” the Ynet news site reported.

Hayut was extradited back to Israel in October, after fleeing the country in 2017 to avoid trial for various fraud-related offenses. During that period, he roamed around Europe, presenting himself as Simon Leviev, the son of Russian-Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev. He used the dating app Tinder to contact women as Leviev and tricked them into loaning him money that he never repaid.

Shimon Hayut with one of his victims. (Screengrab)

The 29-year-old Bnei Brak native was arrested over the summer in Greece for using a fake passport after a joint operation between Interpol and Israel Police.

He had previously been charged with theft, forgery and fraud in 2011, for cashing stolen checks. According to reports, Hayut stole a checkbook belonging to a family while babysitting their child, and another’s while working as a handyman at their home.

But he fled Israel before his sentencing, settling in Finland. In 2015, Finnish authorities charged him with defrauding three women, and sentenced him to two years in jail. In 2017, he was returned to Israel, where he was to to be re-charged and sentenced, but Hayut assumed a different identity and fled the country.

Israel declared him a wanted fugitive, and police appealed for help from international authorities to help secure his return. Hayut is also wanted for various fraud and forgery offenses by Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

According to an investigative report by Norway’s Verdens Gang newspaper, Hayut conned women in Norway, Finland and Sweden out of hundreds of thousands of dollars using a Ponzi scheme.

Dubbing him “the Tinder swindler,” the report said Hayut would charm women with lavish gifts and take them to dinners on private jets using money he borrowed from other women he previously conned. Then, citing security concerns related to his business competition, he’d ask them for financial favors he promised to pay back.

Lev Leviev at a conference at the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem on September 06, 2009 (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Hayut also used other people to make his claims more believable, and surrounded himself with a fake bodyguard, business partners and more. He even officially changed his name to Leviev, so his driver’s license and passport would match his story.

Hayut had previously denied all of the allegations against him, telling Channel 12 in an interview several months ago that all the women who have accused him of fraud and theft did so for personal reasons.

“Maybe they didn’t like being in a relationship with me, or the way that I act,” he said. “Maybe their hearts were broken during the process.”

“I never took a dime from them; these women enjoyed themselves in my company, they traveled and got to see the world on my dime,” Hayut claimed.

Late last month, Channel 12 reported that Hayut’s father, El Al Airlines chief rabbi Yohanan Hayut, was questioned by police over suspicions that he had defrauded hundreds of millions of shekels from business people in collaboration with his son.

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