It was 2004 when the food and restaurant industry saw a name emerging as the pioneer of fine dining. When Sarma Melngailis and Matthews Kenney founded Pure Food and Wine together, it was amazing for its time. The restaurant quickly became famous after opening in 2004. Melngailis disappeared after 10 years in the company and was subsequently imprisoned for fraud. This caused a huge dip in the restaurant’s stock following her sudden absence. From a powerful entrepreneur to a prisoner, Sarma’s life changed overnight.
Later in her trial, Sarma Melngailis alleges that Strangis, her ex-husband who was also a conman manipulated her to steal all the money. He promised her that he had the power to make her and her dog, Leon, immortal so that she can continue with her vegan mission forever. The latest Netflix documentary, Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives serve as the base for what actually happened with the Vegan Queen. The Docuseries shows the collapse of the vegan queen of New York City. Sarma Melngailis is also a part of this psychological breakdown Netflix documentary, where she has had an opportunity to show her side of things.
Various things remain unanswered like what about the court case? Proven guilty, on the run, and then somehow buying a house in New York City? It doesn’t make any sense. Here’s everything about Sarma Melngailis and her vegan empire, you should know.
Who is Sarma Melngailis?
Sarma Melngailis is a vegan activist, who wanted to make the raw food movement into something bigger. She was in charge of the vegan restaurant Pure Food and Wine for 6 years before her marriage to a con artist, Anthony Strangis.
She was a woman full of ambition and dreams which eventually flushed with her marriage. Sarma Melngailis was a shining light for the vegan lifestyle and had a successful, popular restaurant with her husband. But all of that came crashing down when they were accused of embezzlement to the tune, of $2 million.
The real question is how someone educated and successful would get involved in something like that. Melngailis says Anthony manipulated her. He supposedly promised to make her and her dog immortal forever. That sounds pretty bizarre, right? As a result, Anthony Strangis and his lawyer deny these accusations.
What is Sarma Melngailis’s Net Worth?
This is probably one of the most googled questions about the vegan queen of NYC who made her mark within a year of coming into the food and restaurant industry. With her own successful career in business, it only makes sense that Sarma Melngailis would be able to spend her life lavishly. And she did until one poor decision cost her everything she owned. After breaking up with Matthew Kenney, the restaurateur. Within a brief period of establishing her business, it experienced a surge and also attracted celebrities such as actors, athletes, and supermodels.
Before being jailed, Sarma’s net worth was around $1.5 million, with her revenue coming from One Lucky Duck and Pure Food and Wine. Her recent net worth is unknown, but it will undoubtedly be below the previous one.
Sarma Melngailis’s History with Anthony Strangis
Sarma Melngailis was going through a rough breakup with Kenny (her former colleague from the restaurant) and then she met Anthony Strangis online in 2011. Strangis could feel the vulnerability in Sarma and used it as a weapon to conquer her. He made her life a bed of roses by being the best person that showered her with love and affection at each step of her life.
He knew Sarma’s financial status and made her believe that he would handle her debts and even make future planning on spreading her vegan empire into all parts of the world. Sarma came into the impression of his nature and married him at the end of the following year. However, officials suspected Sarma had transferred about $1.6 million from the business to her account by the time they were captured, while Anthony says Sarma claimed she was owed money levied by tax authorities for work done before their marriage.
Not only that, They both spent a lot on luxury goods such as flashy watches and expensive trips to European destinations spending around $150,000. Eventually, they both received a prison sentence followed by probation in return for their actions
Did Sarma Melngailis Go to Jail?
In 2017, Melngailis accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty to larceny, tax fraud, and conspiring to defraud. Serving four months in jail later that year as part of the deal, she was able to clear her conscience.
Strangis pleaded guilty to 4 counts of grand larceny and was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation. He was also fined a whopping amount of $840,000 in restitution. Melngailis filed for divorce with the conman Strangis after serving her sentence.
Netflix’s docuseries: Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.
Now, years after Sarma’s shocking embezzlement. Netflix has released a new documentary titled Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. The docu-series aims to get to the bottom of what actually happened to the vegan queen and the employees of Pure Food and Wine. On one level, Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitive is an exploration of how money and fame can be so fleeting and toxic.
It’s a cautionary tale on how someone who once had the power to introduce a revolution of their kind into the world can go from being one of the most celebrated chefs in the world to be forgotten and then rediscovered within a few years.
The documentary spends much of its early parts hearing from the employees of Pure Food and Wine. When most of the staff was off on a strike due to no salaries and wages given to them. The documentary is the first time Sarma Melngailis has spoken publicly about the fraud, her relationship with Strangis, and his involvement in her business.
How much money did Netflix pay her to appear in the documentary?
Sarma Melngailis recently revealed on her website that Netflix paid her for the documentary released about her. With the money, she plans to give back to their employees who won’t receive a severance package. She mentioned that It is standard practice for subjects to not get paid no matter if they participate in documentaries or not. The streaming platform made an exception for her considering her financial status and the money she owed to her former employees. She received money from the producers and paid her employees for their dues back from 2015.
Sarma has not yet revealed the exact figure of how much she was given from Netflix to pay her former employees, but it is known that it was enough to make up for what they owed. The Netflix documentary Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives are currently streaming.