It’s been a terrible week for vegans. First, one tragically died attempting to summit Mount Everest to prove that you can do anything on a vegan diet, which clearly, you cannot…
And now, one of the biggest restaurateurs in the vegan industry has been arrested and charged with operating a multi-million dollar ponzi-esque scheme that cut her employees out of countless wages, all while her and a partner splurged on Rolex watches, lavish European vacations and trips to casinos.
Even better yet, was the way that the sultry proclaimed vegan was outed…
The New York Post reports:
Sarma Melngailis had it all: an Ivy League degree, model looks and a hot vegan restaurant, Pure Food and Wine in Gramercy, beloved by Alec Baldwin and Bill Clinton.
Now, she’s got a mug shot, a $350,000 bail and husband Anthony Strangis: an alleged gambling addict with a criminal past and an 11-year-old child he hasn’t seen in over a decade.
“It’s the worst nightmare you can think of,” Melngailis revealed to The Post in an exclusive jailhouse interview Saturday morning at Rikers. “If I had terminal cancer, it would be better than this, because at least [then] I did not cause it.”
For the past 10 months, Melngailis and Strangis had been on the lam after allegedly stealing nearly $2 million from her trendy “raw organic” restaurant — blowing $1.2 million at Connecticut casinos. The 43-year-old restaurateur and Strangis, 35, were arrested last week at a $99-a-night Fairfield Inn & Suites in Sevierville, Tenn., after a delivery of unorganic Domino’s outed them.
Sevierville Detective Kevin Bush tells The Post: “I have excellent intelligence that [Strangis] ordered the pizza and wings.” Melngailis insists that it was Strangis who placed the fateful order, and maintains she is still a devout vegan.
Getting caught red-handed in your own ponzi scheme for ordering a pizza AND wings from Domino’s and then maintaining you’re “still a vegan” is about the most vegan thing imaginable. Literally lying to yourself enough that you actually begin to believe what you’re saying is true. Anything for that healthy image, right? Even if it means stealing from your employees to fund your dorky, conniving “husband’s” gambling habits. Which is kind of ironic, seeing as his face never once appeared on Melngailis’ Instagram or any other social media feeds she maintained.
A 24-count indictment against Melngailis and husband Anthony Strangis, 35, claims she transferred nearly $1.6 million from the businesses to her personal bank account, of which her husband blew roughly $1 million at Foxwoods casino and another $200,000 at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Strangis dropped another $80,000 on Rolex and other pricey watches and used more than $70,000 on trips across Europe, the indictment says.
They used another $10,000 to pay for Uber car rides.
“They allegedly gambled away the money or spent it lavishly while leaving everyone else in the lurch,” Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson said in a statement.
Their stealing eventually caught up with them when they failed to pay employees for nearly five months, forcing 98 employees to work for free during the holiday season.
Man, to be that good looking and intelligent and to throw it all away. Going from cuddling up next to celebs like Woody Harrelson, Alec Baldwin, Jason Mraz and Bill Clinton at your esteemed restaurant to a windowless cell on Rikers Island. What a damn shame.
The entire New York Post article chronicling Sarma’s embezzlement saga is well-worth a read.
An aside…is this vegan? Does it matter?
[h/t Philadelphia Magazine]