All it took was one pass and Cecily Vigilhoy was hooked up.
After moving from her native Norway to London, Fjellhoy used the dating app Tinder to look for love. She said she didn’t know at the time that things “would go this way, very, very wrong, and fast.”
The man she met introduced himself as Simon Leviev, an Israeli-born heir to a billion dollar diamond fortune who lived an ultra-luxurious lifestyle that seemed like a fairy tale to Filhoi. Introduce her to a world of private jets and luxury restaurants.
“He was confident, but I felt he was also a regular funny guy,” she told CBS News foreign correspondent Imtiaz Al-Tayeb in her first television interview this morning in the United States.
Fjellhoy said the fairy tale soon turned into a living nightmare. After about six weeks of dating, Leviev makes a request for help – and soon Fjellhoy will lose thousands of dollars in a scam that has attracted widespread attention on both sides of the Atlantic.
She is one of three women whose stories are told in the hit documentary Tinder Swindler on Netflix. All three say they met Shimon Hayut – Leviev’s real name – on Tinder and cheated on them.
Hayott dated or befriended several women, then told them his life was threatened and asked for money to get to safety, claiming that his accounts had been tracked. He is accused of defrauding about $10 million from various alleged victims.
The son of an Israeli-born rabbi, now infamous worldwide as the “Tender Swindler”, received a modest upbringing in a Tel Aviv suburb that seemed too far removed from the lavish lifestyle he claims to lead.
Fjellhoy said Hayut’s call for help came first in an audio message.
“I want to ask you a favor if you have an American Express credit card,” he said in the letter. It is alleged that he and his bodyguard were attacked by someone he calls his “enemies”.
“I really thought he was in danger,” Vigiloy said, noting that he didn’t ask her for money at first.
“He needed my name to pass safely under it,” she said.
But Leviev kept asking for more and more.
“I felt like supporting him,” she said. And it’s hard when everyone says, “Oh, if someone asked me to help them, I’d run the other way.” But what kind of person would I be?
The Netflix documentary, “Tinder Swindler,” describes how Hayut carried out a multinational scam and manipulated victims into taking ever larger loans until they had nothing left – financial or emotional – to offer.
“I think we knew this story had some kind of universal notion of love,” said Felicity Morris, the film’s director.
“I’ve been agonizing over herself, I always feel like it’s an act of weakness,” she said. “We have been truly struck by the support and sympathy – these women’s outrage should not be blamed for what happened to them.”
Morris said Hayut is said to have defrauded people out of large sums of money for years and that she knows about 25 alleged victims.
Hayut was no stranger to the authorities. He had already spent two years in a Finnish prison for fraud before meeting Fjellhoy.
“One of the things he took advantage of was that he didn’t spend much time in any country,” former federal prosecutor Fred Davis said.
“I don’t know if the UK, Norway, Sweden, [the Netherlands]None of these countries really pay enough attention to men. It’s a classic cross-border crime and it’s very common.”
Hayut was eventually arrested in 2019, convicted of fraud unrelated to Fjellhoy, and only spent five months behind bars. The 31-year-old now lives as freely and, according to his Instagram page, as lavishly as before.
After the success of the documentary, he is now working with a Los Angeles-based talent agency.
For Villi, the renewed interest was overwhelming. Some critics and other accused have described them as “gold prospectors”.
“We’ve heard it before, in 2019,” she said. “It’s a victim-blaming game here, and we laugh about it. We are the worst ‘gold prospectors’ in the world. I think if Simon Leviev had been around the right prospectors and asking for help, they would have never helped him.”
Hayot denied the allegations in an upcoming interview with “Inside Edition”, which will be broadcast on Monday evening.
“They basically took everything, manipulated it and added things to make it a very one-sided story,” said Hayot. “Basically, just to destroy my name and destroy everything. Just to sound like such a monster.
Fjellhoy said she was scammed out of more than $200,000, plus interest, and now has nearly $300,000 in debt. Despite everything that has happened to her, she is not giving up on dating apps.
“I’m still on Tinder because I don’t blame Tinder for this,” she said. “I think Tinder was one of the ways he knew he could manipulate and use his skills in this way.”
Fjellhoy said she couldn’t give up on love either.
“I’m a very loving person and I love people and I just want him and I don’t want him to take that away from me,” she said.
Tinder told CBS News that it banned Hayut from the dating app in 2019 after learning of the alleged fraud.
Evil tv scholar. Proud twitter aficionado. Travel ninja. Hipster-friendly zombie fanatic.