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Netflix and cheat

‘Tinder Swindler’ seduces way to top of Netflix charts

Film depicting true story of Israeli con man Shimon Hayut, who bamboozled girls by pretending to be diamond scion, becomes first documentary to lead Netflix viewership globally

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

'Tinder Swindler,' a true-crime documentary about Israeli con man Shimon Hayut, was released on Netflix, on Februay 2, 2022. (Courtesy: Netflix)
'Tinder Swindler,' a true-crime documentary about Israeli con man Shimon Hayut, was released on Netflix, on Februay 2, 2022. (Courtesy: Netflix)

Viewers around the world seem to be swiping right for Netflix’s “The Tinder Swindler,” a true crime documentary that depicts the story of Israeli con man Shimon Hayut and several of his victims.

The original documentary, released on February 2, has landed top on the streaming giant’s global weekly viewing chart, becoming the first documentary released by Netflix to lead the prestigious ranking.

The documentary racked up 45.8 million hours viewed worldwide during the first week of February, over 12 million views more than the second item on the chart, an American sports comedy film titled “Home Team.”

It also hit Netflix’s top 10 chart in 92 countries, including Israel and the US.

The nearly two-hour documentary directed by Felicity Morris tells the story of several women whose hearts and wallets were captured by Hayut. The con man presented himself as Simon Leviev, son of Israeli Russian diamond tycoon Lev Leviev.

Hayut, now known to be the son of El Al Airlines chief rabbi Yohanan Hayut, would meet Scandinavian women on Tinder, lead them to believe he was the son of the fabulously wealthy Leviev and begin long-distance relationships with them, eventually bilking them out of large sums of money.

Hayut, posing as Leviev, would first spend lavish amounts on the women, staying in five-star hotels and flying in private jets.

Speaking on the morning show of Channel 13 on Tuesday morning, Hagit Leviev, Lev Leviev’s daughter, commented on the story for the first time.

“We were very surprised to watch the documentary, it was just sad seeing the fraud committed by this person, as Israelis, as Jews, and of course personally, as the Leviev family,” she said.

She said Hayut’s victims probably go far beyond those depicted in the documentary, noting that the family was approached in the past by companies that were scammed by Hayut.

However, the family was “not aware of the scope of the fraud he did under our name,” she said.

Even after the release of the documentary, she noted, “people seem to think he really is a relative of ours. That person is a crook, he stole our identity and decided his name was Simon Leviev. He is not related to our family in any way.”

Another victim of Hayut, an unnamed manager of a private jet charter company in Slovakia, told Channel 13 Hayut was “pretending to be a business guy, he was pretending to pay the bills and everything, but the whole story was fake, nothing else. He’s a crook.”

The events of the film end prior to Hayut’s sentencing and trial, as he was returned to Israel in 2017 to be recharged and sentenced, but assumed a different identity and fled the country.

Israel declared him a fugitive, and he was eventually extradited back to Israel in 2019, convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Shimon Hayut, the so-called ‘Tinder Swindler,’ is expelled from the city of Athens, Greece, on July 1, 2019. (Tore Kristiansen/Various sources/AFP)

Following the documentary’s release, the three alleged victims of Hayut who shared their stories on the Netflix documentary — Cecilie Fjellhøy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte — launched a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to raise enough money to clear their debts.

Tinder, the dating platform that enabled Hayut’s activity, has banned the con man from the app.

“We banned Simon Leviev and any of his known aliases as soon as the story of his actions became public in 2019,” a Tinder spokesperson said, according to a NBC News report from last week.

“In the lead up to the release of the documentary, we conducted additional internal investigations and can confirm Simon Leviev is not active on Tinder under any of his known aliases,” the spokesperson said.

Jessica Steinberg contributed to this report. 

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