‘I dated the Tinder Swindler and I’m still single… I have a lot of trust issues’ – World News


Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler tells of Israeli conman Simon Leviev, who used the dating app to contact women who he then persuaded to “lend” him money to fuel his lavish lifestyle.

But his crimes had devastating consequences. Norwegian Cecilie Fjellhøy, 34, lost more than £200,000 to Leviev, while Swede Pernilla Sjöholm, 35, lost more than £60,000. And because of interest rates, their debt is rising.

In 2019, Leviev served five months of a 15-month jail sentence for unrelated fraud charges and he is now free. In an exclusive chat, the two women reflect on life since the documentary – which clocked 45.8 million hours viewed in its first week – and their fight to see the crook back in prison.

Simon Leviev persuaded women to ‘lend’ him money to fuel his lavish lifestyle
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Image:

simon_leviev_official/Instagram)

‘He sent me death threats – I’m scared I’ll never find peace’

Cecilie Fjellhøy says…

Recently, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how I feel about relationships. I’m dating, but I haven’t had a long-term or deep relationship since it happened. Everything Simon did has harmed the way I’m dating and perhaps I’m scared of opening up. I have baggage now. I have healed, but I still think there’s a long way to go.

There’s shame attached to stories like mine and I don’t want anyone who’s been a victim to feel ashamed.

Since our story broke, I’ve been contacted by people who were almost disappointed by Simon. I’ve had messages saying, “I met him in Amsterdam… but we only went on a couple of dates – he never asked me for money.”

I think, “Oh, great for you!” The truth is, he met so many people and picked the ones he knew would help him out when he was pretending to be in need.

People often ask me, “How have you got away with it? What are the police doing? And I have to say, “Your guess is as good as mine!” I haven’t heard back from the police officer who was supposed to be chasing my case. I’ve no idea what’s going on.

Cecilie Fjellhøy was one of Simon’s victims and features on The Tinder Swindler
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Image:

Dave Bennett/Getty Images for Net)

I’m desperate to see Simon behind bars. I want him in jail so he can’t do this to anyone else. He deserves to serve time for what he’s done to so many people across Europe.

One thing that’s bothered me in recent weeks has been seeing celebrities like French Montana and Cardi B tweeting that they met him. That’s their reaction to watching the documentary and seeing women in pain! They have all that power and a big following and instead of sending a message about the pain he’s caused, they just want to show that they met him, like he’s an actor in a popular show.

Some people think the same when they meet me. They smile and want a picture like this is a performance – not a traumatic experience. When I hear some of the voice notes Simon sent me on the documentary or on a podcast, they still make me cry.

It’s like the trauma is right there in my face again. The outpouring of love from all over the world has been tremendous, but I still feel scared that I won’t get peace and be able to put it behind me.

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Simon affected shame and made death threats. He told me to “watch out” and that “every action causes a reaction”. He said I had “no idea” what he was capable of and that I’d regret not supporting him.

Someone has been private messaging me on Twitter saying I deserve everything that’s happened to me. They said they’ve sent Simon messages asking to be his apprentice because they’re happy he swindled a gold-digger. It’s disgusting, but I don’t let it break me. These people just want attention.

I also see people online twisting what happened. One girl commented, “Who just gives out a loan of $300,000?” But I never did that – none of us did. They don’t know the full story.

But others are supportive, saying, “Keep fighting!” In Norway, I’m talking to politicians about fraud because the system, when it comes to money, is so rigged towards protecting the banks. I’ve started an organization, but haven’t got it off the ground yet because I’m trying to fix my own life first.

‘Simon is a stupid man with an empty soul’

Pernilla Sjöholm says…

I never started this because I wanted people to feel sorry for me. I want to highlight what’s happened to so many and ask, “Why hasn’t this criminal been charged?”

I’ve seen people posting memes about us girls and Simon, like, “All my enemies are after me – send me money!”, and I get mixed emotions.

I can laugh about some parts of the story because you have to. I won’t let him steal our humor after stealing so much, but it can also feel trashy.

We faced a big backlash in 2019 when we first told our story, so we knew what could happen with the documentary. We were like, hit us with a bus if you want, we’re not going to stop fighting because we might be able to help someone.

The conman being expelled from the city of Athens, Greece, in 2019
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Image:

AFP via Getty Images)

But of course it’s scary to share. I still can’t watch some parts of the documentary – I haven’t seen it in full. I hide behind my hands because some parts are just too much.

As for relationships, I can meet people… but I have a lot of trust issues. If someone does something nice, I become suspicious and think there’s an evil agenda.

I’m glad we’ve started a movement and I hope in the future the police and banks will be more understanding of how this can emotionally impact a victim, not just financially. So many suicides are connected to instances of fraud.

I’d love to start doing lectures about these types of matters. I really want to fight to make a positive change in the world. And I want to see Simon in jail. He’s not a real person, so I’d have nothing to say to him.

Even if I did, it wouldn’t affect him because he has no empathy whatsoever. He’s not capable of that emotion. He doesn’t have any friends or family. He’s just an empty soul.

It’s interesting that after swindling all this money from women, I’ve spent it on bulls**t. Within two to three weeks of this hitting the news he was homeless. I thought, “How stupid can you be? Why didn’t you put 10% in the bank for a rainy day?” He might be a sophisticated criminal, but he’s a very stupid man.

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www.mirror.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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