I saw The Tinder Swindler a while back. I was completely ready for it. I was set to be yelling at the screen, “Don’t send him money!”
Part of my job when I was in Deposit Services was finding fraud. I’ve heard a lot of stories. And while my current job doesn’t deal with fraud as much I still get to hear the stories. In fact, each month the banks in our area have a fraud breakfast.
No, this is not a fake breakfast. It’s a lovely affair with some of the best bacon around. Cheese blintzes with raspberry and blueberry preserves. Cream cheese for bagels shaped into a dove with everyone hesitant to be the one that takes the dove’s head off. Fruit. Eggs. Hash browns. Sausage. Real fancy schmancy stuff. Once everyone has eaten we all go around, introduce ourselves, and then share with each other anything that has come across our work activity that we think other people should know about.
So like I said, I was ready. I was ready to roll my eyes and point out all the rookie mistakes to the mobster.
Let me tell ya, this guy was good. I know it’s bullshit. It’s there in the title. But I’m still wondering how in the hell he’s pulling this off. I don’t have a devious mind. Conning people out of money is not my thing.
The documentary focused on three women- two of whom were romantically involved with him. The third woman was simply a friend. That’s how good he was.
We meet the first woman. She talks about going on Tinder, seeing his picture. He’s posing in front of airplanes, boats, and helicopters and has all the extravagant vacations photos, flashy cars, etc. He says he’s the son of Lev Leviev, a diamond empire billionaire. She swipes right and they agree to meet for coffee.
He plays his part beautifully. This is not someone involved in a texting relationship with fake pictures and requests for money. He asks her to meet him at the Four Seasons. They have coffee. He tells her about his ex-girlfriend, who is the mother of his child. He asks her if she’d like to fly to Bulgaria with him on his private jet.
This woman has never been on a private jet. Probably never been to the Four Seasons either. Of course she says yes. This is intoxicating stuff. Probably what most women dream of. Because remember, most women are still indoctrinated to marry well.
She runs home, throws some clothes in a suitcase and joins him. I’m not sure if a limo or other car picked her up, but she ended up at the airport. There is a woman who is supposed to be his ex, along with his child, and his bodyguard. All is as he says it is.
At that point I think I would have believed he was who he said he was. I’m still a fairly trusting person. I don’t Google people to try to catch them in lies. I suppose if the first woman (and I’m using that term only for purposes of the documentary- this guy has conned hundreds of people), or the later two had bothered to do any research they would have realized he was lying. Remember, he claimed to be the son of a diamond empire billionaire. That was a lie that could quite easily have been found out. But they didn’t. I suppose you could agree with the horrible people on the Internet who say they got what they deserved and that they were gold diggers but I believe they trusted him. They didn’t Google him to try to catch him in a lie because they didn’t ever consider he might be lying to them.
He had the designer clothes; in fact, that’s all he ever wore. He drove expensive cars. He had pictures of himself on vacation in exotic locations. He sent pictures from his private jets that he flew in regularly. He had his trusty “bodyguard” by his side. He had everything he needed to sell the story. When you’re a trusting person you don’t think to look out for the lies.
I was 21 years old when I went out with a guy who I knew for a fact was in the Navy. I knew this guy. This is actually the guy that dumped me for Sweet J, the one I wouldn’t piss on if he were on fire to this day. At some point he told me he flew helicopters, which I suppose could be believed. But he went on to add that he had his own flight song, like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. I was only 21 years old. I had no idea how the Navy worked. You tell me something I’m likely to believe it. I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I truly believed that at 23 years of age this guy was flying helicopters and he had a stupid flight song he flew to.
Was I a gold digger? No, I was a stupid 21 year old who didn’t know any better!
The woman who was a friend only met him on Tinder as well. She recounts how they went for coffee and at the end of the date he started to go in for a kiss and then thought better of it, telling her he thought they should just remain friends. And they did. For years. I’m not talking like 10 or 15, but at least 2 or 3 years. They went out clubbing together. He picked up the tab without hesitation. She didn’t expect it of him; it was simply something he did. She said once that before anyone could even try to pay he was pulling out his card and paying for everyone. She told the story of him and his new girlfriend touring around Europe with her in a Rolls Royce and dropping enormous amounts of money. He was the picture of money and excess. So when he asked her for a loan she didn’t hesitate. She absolutely believed he was good for it. She thought he was her friend, and she wanted to help her friend who needed her.
Along with the elaborate backstory he was a big love bomber. He liked to tell them how they were so perfect for him. He wanted a future with them. He wanted them by his side. He sent constant texts, declaring his love, and constant voice clips stating the same. He sent pictures and made promises. His con was different with the woman who was only a friend, obviously, but he preyed on their friendship as well.
I felt really bad for these women. As I said, a lot of people online were calling them gold diggers and saying that they deserved what they got once they went public with their story. I think those people are wrong. I also think those people are assholes.
All of these women worked. I don’t think any of them were looking for a rich husband but if one happened to fall into their lap who were they to turn him away? The friend seemed to have a fairly decent lifestyle of her own. It was only once they began falling for his lies that they got into financial trouble.
Eventually he fed each of them the lie that his father, the diamond empire billionaire, had enemies who were after him. He was on the run. He sent them each a picture of him and his “bodyguard” in the hospital. The so called bodyguard had a bloodied head that needed to be stitched up and the Tinder Swindler himself had barely escaped harm. He couldn’t use his credit cards because he didn’t want them tracking him. He needed them to send him money immediately. She was the only one he could trust at this point.
The two romantic partners didn’t have the kind of cash he “needed” on hand so he “helped” them out. Get an American Express card and take out a cash advance. Get them to up the amount you can take. Lie to them about what you need it for. Take out more loans. And as he’s pressuring them for money he’s continuing to love bomb them.
The woman who was a friend had money she had put aside for a down payment for a house which she lent to him. I believe once it got to the point he was asking her to take out loans for him she refused.
Now, to be fair, as stupid and trusting as I am, I believe this is the part where I would be questioning some of this. Maybe I’d fall for the first round. Maybe not. It’s easy to say you would when you already know the outcome; however, I was wondering when in the hell the diamond business became so dangerous. Who the fuck is supposedly chasing you, and why? Nonetheless, let’s say he got me the first time around. When he’s suddenly pressuring me to get more and more money to him… Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. But I’m a grizzled old lady who has heard a lot of fraud stories, not a young, naive 22 year old thinking I had found my Prince Charming. Or my helicopter flying hero.
The online trolls can keep telling themselves that these women were gold digging whores that got what they deserve but it’s just not true. This guy conned hundreds of people- men, women, couples. Some estimates put his con at over 10 million dollars. He swindled all sorts of people and sometimes outright stole from them.
The saddest part is that he’s a free man and he’s still spending wildly which means he’s still conning people. He was convicted of fraud, theft, and forgery back in December 2019 (and I don’t believe it had anything to do with the three women profiled) and served only five months of a fifteen month sentence. According to the latest news report he is finally headed to court to battle the real Leviev family. They filed suit against him for using their name in order to defraud people and companies. A June 22nd article says he was set to go to court in Israel the following week. Another article, dated April 25th, claims that he could face jail time once again after being arrested in Spain where he was accused of using a false driver’s license.
Bottom line? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. My own takeaway? A billionaire should never be asking me for a loan.