On Feb. 16, 2019, Ayleen Charlotte was boarding a plane in Prague, Czech Republic to return home to Amsterdam. She’d been visiting Simon Leviev, whom she’d been dating for 14 months. While waiting on the tarmac and scrolling through Instagram in her seat, she spotted Leviev’s picture attached to a multimedia article called “The Tinder Swindler” from the Norwegian newspaper VG. She downloaded it before putting her phone on airplane mode, then spent the flight taking it in. “He has seduced and swindled young women for millions and is a fugitive from justice in several countries,” the article read. “He finds his victims on the dating app Tinder and then seduces them with travel by private jet, luxury hotels and expensive dinners. They believe they are dating a wealthy businessman, but other women he has swindled are paying for the luxury.”
Charlotte had met Leviev on Tinder. She’d lent money to him, too — lots of it. “I gave him $140,000, so much money,” as she recalls in the new Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, released on Feb. 2. In it, director Felicity Morris (who produced Don’t F**k With Cats) interviews two women who claimed they were victimized by Leviev, and the reporters who helped expose his alleged scams using the women’s messaging history, voice recordings of Leviev, videos the women had taken from their visits, and bank receipts. All together, it paints a sinister picture of a man manipulating women internationally for months and conning them out of tens of thousands of dollars.
As Charlotte kept reading, she saw he’d reportedly taken other women on the same dates he’d taken her on, to five-star hotels via private plane. The article revealed that once, when he’d told her he was traveling for business, he’d apparently been visiting a different woman, instead. He’d even sent other women the exact same adoring text messages he’d sent her, as well as the same alarming photos of his supposed bodyguard bloodied by an attack from the “enemies” he often claimed were pursuing him. Most gallingly, she believed she now saw how he’d been spending the money he’d told her he needed to evade the people who wished him harm: “Designer clothes, flight tickets for other women, fancy dinner,” she said on the documentary. “Now I see my money he spent on basically bullshit.”
According to VG’s reporting, the man who claimed on Tinder to be Simon Leviev, heir to a diamond company, was born Shimon Yehuda Hayut, and he had fled Israel after being charged in 2011 with theft, forgery, and fraud. He’d been convicted of defrauding three women in Finland in 2015 and sentenced to two years, and when he got out, he apparently went back to his old ways. His profile showed an upper-crust jetsetter, with pictures of him on airplanes with leather seats and smirking from behind aviator sunglasses in what looked like a high-end sports car. Months after he began dating a woman — or in one case, after the became close friends — they claimed he would ask her to add his name to her credit card or to buy him SIM cards to help protect his identity from the mysterious “enemies” who wanted to destroy him. The scale of the requests would grow over time until women were taking out bank loans to give him tens of thousands of dollars — money he promised to return but never did. One woman had paperwork from eight different creditors who were expecting enormous payments from her. Two of his accusers wound up working with VG to expose him. After the article published in early 2019, more accusers came forward from all over the world. One happened to be his current girlfriend at the time, Charlotte.
When Charlotte got off the plane in Amsterdam, she called the police. Then, she told filmmakers, she decided she was going to get her own money back. “Suddenly, I realized I was in a quite powerful position,” she said. With his supposed scheme exposed in the article, he couldn’t pick up new victims on dating apps. He had no one to turn to except her, she said. So she played her part, telling Leviev that she believed his side of the story, that the women in the article were “bitches,” and that she still loved him and would stand by him. When Leviev asked Charlotte for more money, even suggesting she sell her car and her house to get it, her Whatsapp messages showed, she suggested that instead he let her sell some of his designer clothes for quick cash. He trusted her, she told the documentarians, since she works in the luxury fashion industry, and she flew to Prague to get them. Meanwhile, she said, she sent police a photograph of a new fake credit card he’d just mailed to her.
Charlotte pretended to still be in a relationship with Leviev for a night. “He hugged me and kissed me on the lips, and I felt disgusting,” she said, adding that she lay awake all night in bed next to him staring at the ceiling. “He didn’t make a move, thank God.”
When she left to return to Amsterdam, she said Leviev didn’t even offer to help her with her bags, although he gave her a letter to read on the plane saying he loved her and they’d build a family together if she could help him right now in any way she can.
She proceeded to list his clothes for sale on Ebay, she said. Selling items by Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce and Gabbana, she began pulling in thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, she ignored Leviev’s increasingly irate voice messages and texts. Charlotte told filmmakers he’d leave her 20-minute rants. The messages, played on the documentary, swung between pleas of love and threats against her and her family. “This is where I saw his several personalities,” she said. “It was a horrible experience, but part of me was enjoying seeing him squirm.”
Soon after that, when she figured out Leviev had left Prague on a flight to Greece, Charlotte called the police. According to the documentary, Interpol arrested Leviev at the Athens airport using a passport with the same fake name as was on the credit card he’d sent Charlotte. He was extradited to Israel, where he got a 15-month jail sentence for crimes he’d committed in that country, although he was released after five. Leviev has not been charged for any crimes related to his alleged scamming of Charlotte or the other women who appeared in The Tinder Swindler. Charlotte told the documentarians she was still selling some of Leviev’s belongings. “Of course, it wasn’t in line with everything that I gave him,” she said, referring to the $140,000 she’d lent him, “But it felt like a little bit of payback.”