When Cecilie Fjellhøy swiped right on Simon Leviev on dating app Tinder in January 2018, she was hopeful she might have met a nice man.
After a coffee in a fancy hotel lobby in London, Cecilie was whisked away on a private jet and was quickly falling head-over-heels for this new man… but she wasn’t expecting the “rollercoaster” that came next.
What followed is now the subject of a Netflix documentary that will have you both floored and shouting at your screen at the same time.
“I hid under my shirt for most of the time,” Cecilie tells 9Honey about watching back the doco.
“It’s such a rollercoaster for me, from the love and talking about that to talking about some much harder things. So, for me, it was a proper rollercoaster both taping it and watching it.”
She wasn’t alone in feeling that way.
Pernilla Sjoholm swiped right on Simon in March 2018, while living in Sweden, around the same time Cecilie was looking for a flat to move into with Simon.
Pernilla was similarly wooed by the charming stranger but after their first date, they decided they were a better as friends, holidaying and partying together over the summer.
It wasn’t long, though, until she too became a victim of the man dubbed ‘The Tinder Swindler’.
“With all the trauma that happened afterwards… It’s very surreal,” Pernilla tells 9Honey of watching her experience back in the documentary.
How he fooled his victims
Whether it was his girlfriend Cecilie or his friend Pernilla, the ruse was the same.
Simon (whose real name is Shimon Hayut) told them he was the son of Israeli diamond tycoon Lev Leviev, and while his story checked out on Google, months later they would discover it was all a lie.
After faking that his life was in danger from hit men and his credit cards were being tracked, the “billionaire” would ask his victims to loan him cash until the threat from the bad guys was gone.
He would write fake cheques to pay back the loans that were so realistic, even the big banks were duped into thinking they were real.
“I went into the bank and they sort of legitified the transfer, they just said, ‘Oh everything is fine, the money’s going to come soon’ … You go into your bank, you have so much faith in the system, you would think they would know if something is wrong,” Pernilla says.
“The cheque that he gave me, I just handed it over to [my UK bank] and then they told me everything was fine with the cheque but it was just too large of a sum, and I was like, ‘So the cheque is fine’ and they were like, ‘Yeah, the cheque is real’,” Cecilie adds.
But, of course, the money never came.
Simon would become aggressive and demanding, asking his victims to take out loans to give him more money — with his threatening voice notes sent over WhatsApp heard in the documentary — leaving his victims in major debt.
The regular cash injections were used to fund his lavish, globe-trotting lifestyle.
Simon duped dozens of people out of millions of dollars, becoming dubbed The Tinder Swindler after an expose in Norwegian publication VG.
Cecilie and Pernilla are aware of 15-20 other victims and are quick to point out Simon didn’t just prey on vulnerable women.
“He’s doing this to a lot of different [people]. For example, I had a guy in the UK [say] that his company was defrauded by them,” Cecilie tells 9Honey.
“We want to get that out as well, it was not just women, they defrauded everyone.”
“Male medical students in Germany contacted us over the summer as well. It’s not just women, he defrauds everything he can find,” Pernilla adds.
Some friends and family thought the documentary was a movie when the trailer was first launched because the storyline seemed too intense to be real.
The documentary covers a car ride that left Pernilla fearing for her life, when she was used as bait in a failed attempt to help German police arrest Simon.
“I was 100 per cent sure I was going to die, they were going to put me in a ditch somewhere” she admits to 9Honey.
“I was so scared, I was just thinking in my head: ‘You need to do the biggest act you’ve done in your entire life, otherwise I’m never going to see my friends and family again’.”
But for both Cecilie and Pernilla, speaking about their experiences with Simon, who is currently a free man, is not something they’ve done to launch an acting career.
They’re hoping reliving their private hell will lead to people being prosecuted in court.
“We’re just hoping the police really are going to do their job. We, as people, have done our utmost to get him caught and now we feel it’s up to them to actually do what’s right and not just let it go and think it’s going to disappear, because this guy is just going to continue,” Cecilie warned.
For Pernilla, it’s also about getting the others involved in Simon’s web of lies.
“He wasn’t alone, he had an entire team around him. They have not been convicted of what they did to me or Cecilie or anyone else… there are other people involved in this scam,” she says.
“He hasn’t been alone, he wouldn’t have been able to do it alone and they’ve been out the entire time.”
For both women, it’s a chapter and part of their lives they’d like to leave firmly in the past but they both agree it hasn’t put them off online dating.
The Tinder Swindler is on Netflix now.
This article was reproduced with permission from 9Honey. To read the original article, click here.