An Israeli fugitive who falsely presented himself as the son of a multimillionaire oligarch to allegedly defraud women in Scandinavia out of hundreds of thousands of dollars was extradited on Monday back to Israel, where he faces numerous criminal charges.
Shimon Hayut fled Israel in 2017 to avoid trial for various fraud-related offenses, and bounced around Europe for the next two years. In July, the 29-year-old Bnei Brak native was arrested in Greece for using a fake passport after a joint operation between Interpol and Israel Police.
A police spokesperson said Monday that its investigation into Hayut was “complex and ongoing” and that he was taken to Tel Aviv police’s anti-fraud unit for questioning immediately upon his arrival at Ben Gurion International Airport.
Hayut is to be brought before the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court for a remand hearing on Tuesday. Prosecutors intend to re-indict him with an updated version of his initial charge sheet, and file additional charges.
After he fled Israel for the second time in 2017, Hayut traveled 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.
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 taking 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.
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.
Leviev was reportedly 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.
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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.
Hayut has denied all of the allegations against him, telling Channel 12 in an interview that all the women that 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 charged.
He also denied stealing checkbooks a decade ago, and defended his decision to change his name to Leviev: “I have the right to choose whatever name I want, I never presented myself as the son of anyone, but people use their imaginations.”
Channel 12 reported that Hayut’s fraud and theft over the last two years alone has amounted to some $10 million.