On February 2 Netflix came out with a conventional documentary the Tinder Swindler about a serial con artist Shimon Hayut a.k.a. Simon Leviev (a.k.a. who knows what else) sweeping women off their feet all across Europe. Reportedly he and his small outfit made off with $10M from around 30 women over the course of 2017 - 2019. Three brave women came forward to the public with their personal and even intimate experiences of Shimon, and how they banded together across countries to ultimately get Shimon arrested.
SUMMARY (skip if you've seen):
Shimon's scheme works as follows. He finds matches on Tinder and meets up with them for a physical date, often with feigned spontaneity because of his pending flight out of that country. He plays up a rich, young business mogul with fancy clothes, designer shoes, dandy glasses, and charming personality. He seriously wines and dines his dates. The meet up place would be a high-end restaurant, and he would order practically everything off the menu. But not to worry, he pays for everything; he only wants company. He would then be off to a business trip making some big business deal. But he steps it up further, he can invite the target to come along with him on his private jet. He would book the swankiest hotels and the most expensive suites costing thousands of Euros per night. Always with him is his trusted chief bodyguard Pyotr, and sometimes his ex/mistress(?) and and a business partner.
He will start getting flaky after that because of business deals and security concerns. The diamond busines / arms industry is a dangerous world. However he always keeps up with his multiple targets with constant texts and voice calls. At a certain point his boogeymen would catch up to him, and he would show pictures of bloodied Pyotr. Now he has to lay low, be even more slippery and... borrow his lovers' credit. He would apply credit cards to their name, or even try to get them to bring cash for "security reasons". Of course, all will be paid back later, promise. The expenses will be enormous though, but these are justified because he still has to keep making business deals with important clients, keep up appearances, and keep his security team. Well, as it would turn out, he was using these expenses to wine and dine other women. In effect, he is running a Ponzi scheme, using money from previous partner to pay for a more recent one. These affairs could last a few months to more than a year.
THE END and COMMENTARY
He got caught in the end by his last 3 victims, because one of them was brave enough to go out to the media and social media to expose him. Because of the full publicity press, his 2 current victims got wind of it and they all worked together to get police to apprehend him. They were helped by a couple of intrepid investigative journalists who flew around Europe trying the get a glimpse of him and to Israel to research his background.
Many victims of pig-butchering scams with GASO see so many parallels with their experiences, it's almost deja vu. It is the same whirlwind of emotions and crushing debts in the end. They're all still paying emotionally and financially. But why did the Tinder Swindler have a happy* ending? One victim had difficulty initially making the police to listen to her, but she persisted. It helps that Shimon is living too conspicuously, and that there is a singular, identifiable villain with a face. Not so for victims of relationship-investment or pig-butchering scams. What can you do when you are fighting nameless and amorphous organizations? What can you do if law enforcement is backward, backlogged and unsympathetic? What can you do when almost nobody in the media cares or believe that young people can lose hundreds of thousands individually over virtual dates!?? We are absolutely fighting against corporate behemoths (we are not yet talking about their corporate enablers). No one outside of China, NO ONE, to our knowledge, has gotten any justice, and the scam industry continues chugging along with the employees getting to go home at the end of their 6-month contracts a bit richer.
*Happy in a sense that victims get to see Shimon squirm and photographed with handcuffs. To the anguish of his victims and Netflix-ers, Shimon is now free on early release, and back again in social media.
Some have commented that Shimon is way more advanced than the pig-butchering scammers. I DISAGREE. What about taking a poor village boy, training them to be sweet talkers, then conning women & men hundreds of thousands of miles away hundreds of thousands of dollars, then doing it at SCALE. 100X. Then have all your first to fourth layer bank accounts and money mules ready; move money fast, move crypto fast, mix it all over and cash out in hours? That is just genius. Don't forget their genius IT developers coming up with professional-looking sites (some of them) on the fly, and now, decentralized apps. In comparison, this one tinder swindler looks... so simple. He got CAUGHT. Sophisticated scammers like Shimon are not new but they are rare. He is almost impressive alright, but his con needs a lot of time and money. He can't have savings in the end, because he has to spend to keep it up. Did he seriously believe he can live that high-flying life forever? That is poor strategic planning.
So this Netflix documentary came out almost 3 years after the events. Are we going to get a mainstream English documentary 2 - 3 years from now? We can only hope.