'I hope he gets coronavirus. I hope he dies'

‘Tinder swindler’ released from prison early, infuriating fraud victims

Shimon Hayut, who conned European women out of hundreds of thousands of dollars with help of dating app, served 5 months of 15 month sentence

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 released from prison in Israel after finishing five months of a 15 month sentence, infuriating his fraud victims, according to a Friday report.

Shimon Hayut, known colloquially as the “Tinder swindler,” was imprisoned in December 2019 by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court.

The Ynet news site earlier this month reported that Hayut had met conditions for release under a program aimed at reducing the prison population amid fears of a coronavirus outbreak among inmates, despite fears that Hayut would attempt to escape authorities again.

It wasn’t immediately clear exactly when he had been released.

Shimon Hayut with one of his victims. (Screengrab)

Hayut fled to Europe to escape charges in Israel twice before his 2019 arrest and imprisonment.

Stockholm resident Pernilla Sjoholm, who said Hayut defrauded her, said she received word of his release from a friend.

“I was in shock from the decision to release him. I’m really disappointed by [Israel’s] justice system which gives a man like that a reduced sentence. He deceived people and left prison after five months? Did you go crazy in Israel?” Sjoholm told Channel 12 in an interview published in Hebrew.

“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?” she said.

A Finnish woman, identified by the initial, “D,” said Hayut had conned her out of 45,000 euros ($49,000).

“I’m a single mom to a daughter and I gave him all the savings I had. 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,” she told Channel 12.

“He’s a bad person, and I haven’t been able to rebuild my life because of him to this day. Myself and some other women filed lawsuits against him with the European Court of Justice and submitted complaints against him with Interpol,” she said.

Another woman, identified by the initial “A,” said that she and others had lawsuits ready to file against Hayut.

“Private investigators and Interpol people are waiting for him to leave Israel to arrest him,” she said. “He ruined my life and shattered me emotionally and financially. I will never forgive him in my life for what he did to me. He will pay dearly for his actions and we will make sure he will go to prison for many years. I thought there was law in Israel, but your justice system, unfortunately, encourages acts of fraud.”

“When I heard that he was being released I felt like I had been stabbed in the back. People like him cannot be released under any circumstances and it’s clear to me that he will try to escape again,” she said.

When he was sentenced, Hebrew media reports said that after time served was deducted from his sentence and assuming early release for good behavior, which is common practice in Israel, he could have been 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.

In addition to the sentence, he was ordered to pay his victims NIS 150,000 ($43,289) and 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.

Hayut was extradited back to Israel in October 2019, 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.

The 30-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, 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.

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.

Last year, 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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