Is Netflix exposure making scammers like Simon Leviev and Anna Sorokin rich and famous?

The two are the stars of a documentary and a limited series about their crimes

Simon Leviev as he is expelled from Athens on July 2, 2019, and Anna Sorokin in a New York courtroom on April 11, 2019. Both are now looking to capitalise on their notoriety. AFP
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Netflix's fascinating foray into the manipulative minds and criminal dealings of con artist Simon Leviev in the documentary The Tinder Swindler, and the miniseries Inventing Anna about fake heiress Anna Sorokin (aka Anna Delvey), have proved to be huge hits.

While audiences gasp from the comfort of their sofas at the audaciousness of the pair's crimes, which left trails of broken hearts, destroyed trust and mountains of debt in their chaotic wake, the criminals themselves are not only revelling in their newfound fame, but also profiting from it.

New docuseries for Sorokin from ‘KUWTK’ team

Sorokin, 31, is the subject of Netflix's limited series Inventing Anna, itself based on the New York magazine article about the fake heiress. However, she is now set to star in her own docuseries.

Bunim/Murray Productions, the company behind reality TV shows Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Project Runway, as well as the acclaimed documentary Surviving R Kelly, is in talks with the Russian-German con artist to star in her own show, purportedly about her post-prison life.

Having been released from jail in 2021 after serving three years, Sorokin is currently being detained by US immigration for matters pertaining to having overstayed her visa.

“Anna’s story is very much alive and still unfolding as we speak,” said Michael Driscoll, Bunim/Murray’s director of development. “We’ve been developing this project with her for months now — and spent countless hours on phone and video calls with her. She is a complicated and fascinating character, and we are looking forward to telling the next chapter of her ever-evolving tale.”

How the fake heiress profited off her crimes

According to Insider, Sorokin was paid $320,000 by Netflix for the rights to adapt her story into Inventing Anna.

Sorokin’s assets had previously been frozen in May 2019, two years after her arrest, owing to the US “Son of Sam” law which prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes.

Of the $320,000, Sorokin paid $199,000 in court-ordered restitution to her victims, $75,000 in lawyers' fees and $24,000 in state fines. Her remaining funds were unfrozen for her to keep for herself.

'The Tinder Swindler': book, dating show and podcast plans

Simon Leviev has signed with a Hollywood talent agent in the hopes of parlaying his infamy into a dating show and relationship podcast. Photo: @simon_leviev_official via Instagram

For Leviev, 31, his brush with notoriety in The Tinder Swindler was not enough. In the documentary, he claimed to be the son of billionaire diamond dealer Lev Leviev, and manipulated numerous women over the years into handing over money to fund his jet-set lifestyle.

In 2015, Leviev served two years of a three-year sentence in a Finnish prison for fraud. Upon his release in 2017, he returned to Israel where he was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $43,289 for previous crimes relating to fraud. He served only five months and was released early for good behaviour.

Estimated to have conned people out of more than $10 million, three of Leviev's victims, Cecilie Fjellhoy, Pernilla Sjoholm and Ayleen Charlotte, who shared their stories in the Netflix documentary, are still paying back bank loans and credit card debt they accrued on his behalf.

Sjoholm recently told GQ that she is bankrupt and back living with her mother. Setting up a GoFundMe account accepting donations they will put towards their debts, the trio wrote: "All we want are our lives back."

However, for Leviev, Hollywood, rather than atonement, beckons.

Talent manager Gina Rodriguez at entertainment company Gitoni Inc, which has the likes of Blac Chyna, Amber Rose and Tori Spelling among their clients, has signed on Leviev. The pair have revealed plans to capitalise on his infamy with ideas for a book, a dating show in which women compete for his love, as well as a dating podcast.

"I was intrigued with the Netflix story. I saw the world’s greatest salesman," Rodriguez told Entertainment Tonight. "It left me with a lot of unanswered questions and was very biased. I believe there are two sides to every story and everyone should have the chance to tell their side of the story."

Updated: February 17, 2022, 1:09 PM
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