New Must-See Netflix Series Is Like ‘The Tinder Swindler’ on Steroids

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We'll admit it: Our fascination with notorious fraudsters (even the alleged ones) has reached an all-time high. First, it was Billy McFarland's colossal fail in FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. Then, there was the story behind Sarma Melngailis's downfall in Bad Vegan. And now, we've set our sights on a new true-crime documentary that feels like a cross between The Tinder Swindler and Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.

In case you missed it, Netflix just released a three-part docuseries called Escaping Twin Flames, which revolves around a controversial community that promises its members true love with their perfect "twin flame." For several community members, however, their desire to find a soulmate eventually turns into a nightmare. As one participant claims in the doc, "I met my twin flame, and it turned my entire f**king world upside down."

From the founders' questionable approach to the tell-all Vice article about Twin Flames Universe, keep reading for all the details.

1. What Is Escaping Twin Flames About?

Directed by Cecilia Peck, Escaping Twin Flames pulls back the curtain on the Twin Flames Universe, an active online spiritual community that has grown exponentially in recent years. On the official website, members are sold online classes that promise "the perfect love" through a "harmonious twin flame union." However, in the doc, former members are accusing the community's leaders, Jeff and Shaleia, of using manipulative and unusual tactics to exploit those who desperately want to find true love. For instance, members are apparently encouraged to pursue their twin flames by any means necessary, regardless of whether that person has moved on or even taken legal action. And if things go awry, they turn to the Mirror Exercise—a key teaching that tells people to assume responsibility for what happens to them instead of blaming others.

The docuseries, which features interviews with journalist Sarah Berman who wrote an exposé piece in Vice, features eye-opening testimonials, footage of past Zoom classes and interviews with loved ones who've been cut off by the community's members, causing many to suspect that it's a cult.

Per Netflix, the filmmakers said in a statement, “Escaping Twin Flames is the result of a three-year investigation into the sophisticated recruitment and indoctrination techniques employed by the leaders of this online group. We are grateful to those who courageously entrusted us with their firsthand accounts and evidence. We made this series for them and for everyone who has been manipulated or coerced without knowing it.”

2. Who Are Jeff and Shaleia?

Jeff and Shaleia Ayan are self-proclaimed spiritual gurus and founders of Twin Flames Universe. The couple apparently met on Facebook in 2012 through a mutual friend, and soon after their romance began, the pair experimented with different business ventures before settling with the Twin Flames Universe.

Both reportedly claim to have a special connection with God, which gives them the spiritual power to "sense" or select other peoples' twin flames, and have been spearheading the Twin Flames empire from their $850,000 home in Traverse City, Michigan.

3. How Is Escaping Twin Flames Similar to The Tinder Swindler?

Coutesy of Netflix

In case you need a refresher, Tinder Swindler revolves around Shimon Hayut, an alleged scammer who is accused of posing as a wealthy diamond mogul named Simon Leviev and using the Tinder dating app to scam multiple women. And throughout the doc, we hear the shocking testimonials of these women, who dug themselves into debt for a guy they believed was their true match.

Similarly, Escaping Twin Flames shines a light on people who jumped at the opportunity to find their soulmate, but then say they fell victim to an alleged scam. Only in this case, it feels even more sinister because people are reportedly being encouraged to go to extreme lengths for companionship—like stalking their love interests and changing their gender identities.

4. Is It Worth the Watch?

Coutesy of Netflix

It’s fascinating, to say the least, but it's not an easy watch. Hearing these extreme accusations of manipulation and gaslighting, and seeing how this impacted people’s mental health is beyond heart-wrenching. However, it feels like a reminder of how far people will go to find love—something that alleged con artists seem happy to exploit.

The series does a good job of highlighting the alleged victims by letting them share their stories. If you live for mind-boggling documentaries that dive into wild schemes and their aftermath, then this one's for you.

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