The Netflix documentary, ‘Tinder Swindler’ has recently taken the world by storm. It recounts the story of a serial conman, Simon Leviev, an Israeli-born 31-year old who met numerous women all over Europe via the dating application, Tinder, and allegedly ‘swindled’ them out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Legally, what would have happened if the Tinder Swindler had defrauded thousands of dollars from women in Australia?
The Tinder Swindler’s alleged conduct would attract a number of serious criminal charges, including Fraud, Forgery and various other offences. But let’s focus first on Fraud…
In NSW, pursuant to S192E of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), a person is guilty of the offence of ‘Fraud’ when they, by deception, dishonestly:
1. Obtain property belonging to another; or
2. Obtain any financial advantage or cause any financial disadvantage.
The maximum penalty for an offence of Fraud is 10 years imprisonment.
At law, property is a very broad term which includes, most relevantly in this case, money and personal items such as clothes. ‘Deception’ is legally defined as any deception, by words or other conduct, as to fact or as to law, including a person’s deceptive intentions. Dishonesty is determined by reference to the standards of ordinary people. Further, the accused person must know his conduct is dishonest according to these objective standards.
The Swindler told his victims he was ‘on the run’ from his enemies, begging the women to lend him money or take out credit cards for his use in their own names, stating he was unable to use his bank cards as his ‘enemies’ were tracking him this way, but promising to pay them back. The women would then take out loans for thousands of dollars, with Simon’s demands to borrow money only growing until the women were in hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt with none of the borrowed funds repaid. Simon’s representations to these women about his personal and financial circumstances were entirely false and he never intended to repay these borrowed funds.
This alleged conduct would give rise to Simon being charged with Fraud, for dishonestly obtaining property (money) belonging to these women by deception.
But what about Ayleen Koeleman, one of the Swinder’s victims, who convinced Simon to give her his designer clothes collection to on sell, only to keep the money for herself? Would she be guilty of a fraud offence?
Ayleen could raise a good legal defence to a charge of Fraud – the defence of claim of legal right. As the Swindler had defrauded Ayleen out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, she had a legal right to the repayment of those funds to her. As the value of the designer clothes were less than the amount Simon owed Ayleen, she had a claim of legal right over all of the clothes. This defence is not available when the property stolen or obtained by deception is worth more than the claim of legal right. So, stealing a Rolex watch because someone hasn’t repaid you $100 is still very much illegal!
If you or anyone you know has been charged with a Fraud offence, you should immediately seek Legal Advice. Our experienced Criminal Lawyers at Longton Legal have a wealth of experience dealing with Fraud matters and can help you achieve the best possible outcome.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action.*
 S 192B, Crimes Act (NSW) 1900
 S 4B, Crimes Act (NSW) 1900
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