The modest apartment in one of the side streets of Bnei Brak, where Shimon Hayut grew up, is light-years away from the private jets, racing cars and luxury hotels in which he has been spending his time in recent years. Hayut, 28, lived the hedonistic life of a millionaire. Not any old millionaire, but supposedly the wayward son of Russian-born diamond mogul Lev Leviev.
To anyone who falls into his web and is tricked by his sharp tongue, Hayut says that he left religion, and that his family showers him with money so he’ll stay away from them. That’s what he said, for example, to a contractor from Nahariya whom he met at the Etnachta club in Tel Aviv, while he was surrounded by women and ordering drinks for everyone.
Hayut even formally changed his last name to Leviev, so that his driver’s license and passport would prove his credibility, says the contractor. Like him, most of those around Hayut are unaware – until it’s too late – that the charming guy is a con man who has now fled to avoid trial in Israel, was formerly imprisoned in Finland and is wanted for fraud in several countries, including Norway and the United Kingdom.
A few weeks ago, after six months of intensive research that crossed borders and continents, the staff of the Norwegian tabloid VG located Hayut in Munich, Germany. The journalists began to take an interest in Hayut after it turned out that a young Norwegian woman fell victim to his scam and loaned him hundreds of thousands of dollars that were never returned to her.
The woman, Cecilie Schrøder Fjellhøy, approached VG and agreed to reveal her name and expose all her correspondence with Hayut, including video clips he had sent her to show his life of luxury.
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The reporters soon discovered that Simon Leviev, as he calls himself, is actually an Israeli man who served a prison sentence in Finland, was extradited to Israel and tried there but disappeared before being sentenced, and turned up in various European capitals as a mysterious millionaire, accompanied by a personal assistant, secretary and bodyguard.
Fjellhøy, who flew with Hayut in his private planes and saw his lifestyle before loaning him money, told the newspaper that he seemed trustworthy, and that the fact that he was surrounded by people dispelled any doubts she had.
Hayut grew up in the predominantly ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak in central Israel and as a child studied in a Talmud Torah elementary school near his home. His father, Yohanan Hayut, is the chief rabbi of El Al.
According to the indictment filed against him in the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court, Hayut began his acts of fraud some years ago. For example, according to the charge sheet, at the age of 20 he stole checks from a family in Kiryat Ono when he babysat for their 4-year-old son. He abandoned the child in the stairwell when he heard that the child’s mother was at the police station, filing a complaint about the theft of her money.
Hayut stole other checks from the family of a businessman living in Herzliya Pituah, in whose home he worked as a handyman. He used the money to buy a Porsche and to take flying lessons in Haifa.
Although he never completed the civilian flight course, Hayut sometimes presented himself as a pilot. A classmate in the course said that he himself fell victim to a scam perpetrated by Hayut, after being persuaded by him to invest in a deal to import clothing that never came to fruition. It goes without saying that the classmate never again saw the money he invested.
Hayut fled Israel with a forged passport, and was brought back only after serving a three-year prison sentence for defrauding three women in Finland. An updated indictment was filed against him in 2017, but he was released on bail paid by his brother and a friend – and disappeared again.
Now it turns out that the scope of Hayut’s alleged acts of fraud has only multiplied over the years, and included several instances of exploiting young women who loaned him money. The reporters at VG found him in Munich thanks to a tip from a Swedish woman who fell into Hayut's trap and cooperated with the tabloid by contacting and agreeing to meet with him. When she confronted him in a conversation recorded by the newspaper, Hayut denied that he had defrauded her.
Lev Leviev has filed a complaint with the Israel Police against Hayut, and its Tel Aviv district fraud unit confirms that Hayut is wanted for questioning. The attorney who represented him at the beginning of proceedings against him, Yaki Cohen, said that he lost contact with Hayut in recent months.