Netflix’s Latest True Crime Documentary Centers On A Cruel But Charismatic Con Man


Despite the 21st century connotations of its title, in many ways The Tinder scammer is a jerk as old as time. netflixthe new documentary from the team behind Don’t fuck with cats and the impostor, begins with the story of Cecilie Fjellhoy, a 29-year-old Norwegian graduate student living in London. It’s January 2018, and like so many men and women in his position, Fjellhoy’s search for love mostly involves flicking left and right on dating apps, assessing potential partners based on some photos and a sentence about their interests.

In the usual swamp of guys who think “eating” and “sleeping” are adequate things to list under “hobbies” as if they weren’t requirements to be a living mammal, Simon Leviev stands out. . He’s handsome, successful, and has the kind of lifestyle that graduate students tend not to appreciate. They meet in luxury hotels and he takes her on private jets. She is bowled over by his occasional vulnerability as well as his charm. “He was the kind of person you wanted to save,” she says.

He is the son of a billionaire diamond trader called Lev Leviev. It is a lucrative but difficult job, likely to embarrass him. He has mysterious “enemies”. Before long, he asks Cecilie to pull out an American Express credit card that he can use to pay for things to confuse these enemies. He hires him to work in his company and sends him a payslip. With this proof, Amex increases its credit limit without a problem. Soon Leviev spent a quarter of a million dollars of his money.

Everything is a fraud. In reality, “Simon” is Shimon Hayut, an Israeli fraudster. His deception was complete. To lend credibility to his operation, he changed his last name to Leviev and employed fake assistants and security guards. Among other things, the case proves how much we value online fingerprints, as if they cannot be manipulated and distorted like any other document. By the time Fjellhoy realizes she’s been scammed, Leviev has already found another victim, Pernilla Sjoholm, a Swede. Obviously, he has a type. As we will discover, he also has a past: he spent three years in Finland for fraud. Eventually, the women help the police organize the operation that catches him again. In November 2019, he was imprisoned for 18 months.

Looking back, it’s easy to wonder how these women could have been so gullible. American Express needs to look carefully in the mirror. But an ostentatious love of private jets, watches, cigars and blondes is not a new red flag. Hint: if he posts pictures of himself in helicopters, he’s a chopper.

Although he exchanged love rather than old burgundies, Hayut reminds me of Rudy Kurniawan, the wine fraudster who was the subject of Netflix’s 2016 documentary. sour grapes. Just as Kurniawan obviously possessed a real talent for wine and a refined palate, Hayut is obviously a charismatic man capable of real charm. In another universe, he could have used these qualities for good rather than evil. But he did not do it. In the disturbed voice notes he leaves for these women as the net closes, he sounds frightening: a psychopath on the edge. Fjellhoy, in particular, was sent to the brink of a nervous breakdown by the deception, and still struggles to talk about her experience without crying. The end of the film is bittersweet. Hayut has never been accused of defrauding the women, who always repay their debts. After serving just five months, he is a free man in Israel, where he was apparently caught trying to skip the line for vaccines.

Despite the great thread in its center, as a film, The Tinder scammer sometimes falls into the self-indulgence common to so many modern documentaries, with endless dark reconstructions and a harrowing soundtrack. At nearly two hours, that’s at least half an hour too long. I blame the real crime. Mostly, I blame the podcasts. The market for these kinds of stories is so rabid that once producers get their hands on something juicy, as it undoubtedly does, they’re determined to squeeze every last drop out of it. Rigorous editorial judgement: important when making a documentary; indispensable when browsing Tinder.

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