Leviev Diamonds and Netflix’s Tinder Swindler Victims Join Forces
By Lieba Nesis
Madeleine Albright famously remarked “there is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”. As a strong advocate of women banding together there was no better event to attend than the cocktail party at Mister French on 24 East 21st at 7 PM on June 21st to meet the women of Netflix’s “Tinder Swindler”. Being duped out of a half-million dollars by a man who professes his love for you is nothing short of degrading and yet these women bravely chose to tell their story despite the backlash and ridicule. CEO of Leviev Diamonds, Chagit Leviev, joined Tinder Swindler victims Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm, and Ayleen Charlotte to launch a “stronger together” bracelet for $169 to help defray their legal costs with 10% donated to charity.
The British true-crime documentary “Tinder Swindler” runs 114 minutes and was one of the top rated Netflix shows of all time -downloaded more than 166 million hours in its first 28 days. I myself was spellbound by the intricate tale of deception woven by Shimon Hayut but wondered why anyone would fall prey to such a farfetched story.
Tonight most of my queries were answered by the three beautiful women who were as charming and humble as they were sincere. I was also remarkably surprised by their optimism and zest for life with Cecilie Fjellhoy confessing she still swipes on Tinder and various other dating apps but loves the freedom and carefree life of being single. She will also be speaking at a Tel Aviv monetary conference next week on how banks can better detect fraud; as well as having the opportunity to confront Hayut on June 28th when the Leviev’s bring him to an Israeli court for a criminal hearing. Fjellhoy has started a charity entitled “Action Reaction” to help women who have been victims of fraud and deception.
The three casualties of Hayut’s trickery were gradually moving on with their lives with Ayleen Charlotte $150,000 in debt, Pernilla Sjoholm losing all her $100,000 savings and Cecilie Fjellhoy missing close to $300,000. How could this be, I inquired, when Netflix made tens of millions from their story? The question was briskly answered with the usual “Netflix as a distributor barely paid us” an unfortunate happenstance in male dominated Hollywood; especially with the sale taking place in 2019 when few knew the stratospheric success that would ensue.
The story tracks Shimon Hayut a Casanova Tinder addict who travels around Europe falsely presenting himself as the son of Russian Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev in order to con women out of money who end up financing his lavish lifestyle comprised of private jets, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and more than one caviar dinner. He claimed to be the black sheep son of the Leviev’s in need of money to protect him from the “enemies” who had hindered his use of bank accounts and credit cards. I never knew diamond manufacturing was such a dangerous profession. The Leviev’s are a legendary international family and one of the world’s largest privately held manufacturers and distributors of diamonds through ownership of mines throughout the world. Up until the show their profile had been relatively low with magnate and founder Lev Leviev rarely photographed and his philanthropic donations to Chabad and the Bukharian Jewish community mostly kept under the radar. However, this evening his daughter Chagit appeared front and center in a magnificent white lace dress to showcase the bracelet which features two golden rings and two natural diamonds representing the women coming together in a full circle moment and symbolizing the closure that will come when these women get back on their feet through the sale of the bracelet.
Chagit said the Leviev’s notified Israeli police numerous times in 2017 and 2018 of Hayut’s false check cashing and use of the Leviev name to no avail. She noted the bravery of these outspoken women while dozens of others suffered silently to avoid embarrassment. There were so many impressive career women akin to Chagit at the cocktail party including Galit Levi, Elizabeth Sutton, Hafit Golan, Jean Shafiroff and Freida Rothman. Rothman’s accessories are sold at Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. Freida’s husband, Matt, was the best Jewish PR man I have met as he proudly spoke of his wife’s significant contributions to the world of jewelry and handbags displaying her $395 “strength” bracelet where 20% of the proceeds are donated to families of Holocaust survivors.
The evening was all about women warriors overcoming insurmountable odds with triumphant dignity. As I exited the venue I had one last opportunity to speak with Ayleen Charlotte. “Why didn’t you look Hayut up on the Internet”, I asked. Charlotte replied despite months of trying he had removed all information. I was also curious as to whether any of Hayut’s designer duds remained-yes she said we still have 50 items left including his signature glasses that we are in talks to sell. “People hate when I say this but Simon is probably still the smartest guy I have met”, replied Charlotte. Having fleeced dozens of women out of more than $10 million I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more.