Long before the premiere of the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, diamond mogul Lev Leviev (aka The King of Diamonds) founded LLD Diamonds. The company and the Leviev family became the subject of the highly controversial Netflix documentary that was viewed by more than 50 million subscribing households within weeks of its February 2 premiere. Those featured in the film were thrust into the limelight and their lives were forever changed.
The women involved have united to fight their claims that they were scammed by Shimon Hayut (who now goes by Simon Leviev but will be referred to as Hayut in this article to avoid confusion). He is denying all allegations made against him.
Both sides will face off in court on Tuesday, June 28 at 11:30 IST at a preliminary hearing in the Tel Aviv Magistrate Court. Attorney Guy Ophir, who is representing the Leviev family, spoke in a phone interview and said that he expects the judge to read the indictment against the defendant during the arraignment and that he is supposed to plead guilty or not guilty.
Ophir explained that Hayut’s attorney Yaki Kahan had previously filed a motion to permit his client not to appear in person during the preliminary hearing but then filed another motion stating that his client would appear in person.
“I believe that his attorney will only give oral arguments regarding legal defenses and motions that he would like to file,” says Ophir. “He could ask the court for more time for disclosure; a defendant has the right to give an oral or written plea and a written plea would allow him more time to elaborate on each claim.”
This, adds Ophir, can give the defendant’s team an additional 14-20 days or so to plead. “So, I assume that the defendant will not be asked to provide his pleading of guilty or not guilty. What I will say is that there are only two reasons he’s decided to show up in person: He either wants a media circus or he wants the chance to make a plea of not guilty. At first, his attorney argued he wasn’t going to come saying his appearance would incite a media circus which is ironic because this man is hungry for publicity. To my understanding he has even pictured himself with a camera crew, that he employed himself, to create the appearance that they are making a movie about him.”
Ophir confirms that at least one of Hayut’s victims, Cecilie Fjellhøy, will also be in court and he’s confident in their case. “He can believe his lies but we have unbelievable recordings. In one, his father presents Shimon, his son, as the son of Leviev! You need to be crazy to be able to do that.”
In an emailed response, Hayut confirmed that he legally changed his name to Simon Leviev in 2017 and he adamantly denied the allegations made against him. “First of all, let me start off that this is not a court case, it’s a show that will take place in court,” his statement read in part. “The Leviev family has filed this private complaint against me, technically any person can do that, without any evidence or solid proof, that is why they chose to do it this way and not to do it in the formal way that it should be, and it’s just for show that they doing something. I am innocent and will soon file lawsuits against the Leviev family, same as I filed lawsuits against the ladies back in 2019.”
Hayut believes the judge will dismiss what he calls nonsense. “It will take two minutes. No one asks the other parties what it’s all about. It’s a show, a publicity stunt. The Leviev family are not the law, they are lawbreakers.”
Hayut posed as a globe-trotting billionaire on Tinder against the backdrop of private jets, fancy hotels and a wardrobe worth more than most people make in a year. The Netflix film portrayed him as a fraud and proves he is not the son of a billionaire. It also showed that all of the glitz and glamour he posted on social media was really at the expense of his victims.
LLD Diamonds is touted as the world’s largest privately held diamond manufacturer and cutting group with ownership in mines around the world and Hayut pretended to be the company’s CEO. He allegedly conned a myriad of women and companies out of an estimated $10 million from 2017 to 2019.
A month after the film’s premiere, Chagit Leviev, Lev’s daughter and the real CEO of LLD Diamonds USA, spoke with me in an interview and detailed how her family first discovered Hayut’s scam. It was 2017 when she received a disturbing phone call from a man claiming he was about to deposit three checks from her company totaling $350,000 for services rendered by her company’s CEO, Simon Leviev. She was very clear that no one in her family had ever met Hayut and that he was not the company’s CEO.
This call immediately set off alarm bells for the Leviev family and they filed a police report with Israeli police. The complaint, she said with frustration, was closed a few months later. Over the five years from then to the 2022 documentary, she and her family received many emails and phone calls from numerous European vendors regarding unpaid charters for private planes, yachts and high-end car services.
Hayut allegedly had many victims but three women were featured in the film: Cecilie Fjellhøy, Ayleen Charlotte and Pernilla Sjöholm. Leviev was quick to reach out to them and they have since become friends. The four women have banded together to create an exclusive jewelry line that is inspired by their mutual mission to seek justice. The first piece is the solid gold Stronger Together bracelet and all profits from the sales of the bracelet will go directly back to the women to help them recoup financially.
Even after the film exposed him as a con, Hayut continued to live a lavish lifestyle while his victims continued to pay off upwards of six-figure debts. Cecilie, in particular, claimed she took out $250,000 in loans. Fjellhøy, Sjöholm and Charlotte started a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay these debts off.
In early March, the Leviev family and LLD Diamonds filed a criminal suit and it made international headlines. If convicted, Hayut could get an 11-year sentence in an Israeli prison.
From various pieces of evidence, including the above-referenced recordings and various witness accounts, this was at least in part, a father-son con and Leviev stated that the family’s case was against Shimon and Yohanan Hayut, referencing a mountain of evidence including the recording of Hayut’s father introducing Shimon as a son of the Leviev family.
Ophir confirms that Hayut could face prison time as well as monetary fines. The Leviev family has instructed him to use any legal procedure available by law to bring Hayut to justice and he has referred to the criminal suit as “the beginning of an all-out legal war.”
Hayut is a wanted man in several countries and has spent some time behind bars. He was finally caught while using a fake passport in Greece in 2019 and extradited to Israel where he was charged with theft, fraud and forgery of documents stemming from a 2011 crime spree. He served five months in prison out of a 15-month sentence and was released for good behavior during Covid. And he served two years (2015-2017) in a Finnish prison for defrauding three women there.
After the film’s release and immediate popularity, Hayut made plans for Hollywood and even signed with a talent manager. His plans included writing a book, hosting a dating podcast and he pitched a TV show. He’s also allegedly made money on the celebrity website Cameo.
The Leviev family says the criminal lawsuit is just the first step out of many they will be taking to have Hayut face justice. The family also intends to sue him in a civil case and they want to sue anyone who gives him a platform.