From Fyre to The Tinder Swindler, Netflix's true crime documentaries have been 10/10 in recent years – and that run shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Sitting comfortably in the UK's top ten programmes, Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives is the latest must-see phenomenon that follows vegan restauranteur Sarma Melngailis through her bizarre relationship with con artist Anthony Strangis.
Who is Sarma Melngailis? How did Anthony manage to convince her that he could make her and her dog immortal? And what possessed the adored restaurant owner to steal $2 million from the employees of Pure Food and Wine? Here's everything you need to know about the star of Bad Vegan…
Who is Sarma Melngailis?
Sarma – dubbed "Sarma Mama" by her admiring employees – is the (formerly) adored owner of New York's raw vegan food hotspot, Pure Food and Wine. She also owned One Lucky Duck – a takeaway retail store attached to the original venture.
Before training to become a chef at New York's French Culinary Institute, Sarma graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics.
Sarma ditched a lucrative career in finance to follow her passion – food. The journey led her to spark up a relationship with Matthew Kenney, and together the pair opened Pure Food and Wine.
For years, the restaurant went from strength to strength thanks to a combination of fantastic food, incredible teamwork and a certain amount of celebrity sparkle.
Stars like Owen Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jimmy Fallon dined at Pure Food and Wine. Alec Baldwin – who often flirted with Sarma before he wed – even met his wife, Hilaria, there.
What happened between Sarma Melngailis and Anthony Strangis?
Sarma met and married Anthony who convinced her he was beholden to otherworldly forces he called "they".
Anthony constructed an elaborate fantasy that he roped Sarma into. He slowly convinced her that she and her beloved Pitbull, Leon, would be awarded with an eternal "happily ever after" if she agreed to wire him money and pass the "tests" he set.
Sarma ended up sending Anthony almost $2 million before the pair went on the run after staff staged a mass walkout at Pure Food and Wine and One Lucky Duck.
Did Sarma Melngailis go to prison?
Sarma and Anthony were arrested in 2016 after the latter gave away their location by ordering a pizza from Domino's.
Sarma was wanted for grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, scheme to defraud and violation of labor law, but was offered a plea deal in which she would agree to serve one to three years jail time.
Writing on her website bio, Sarma explained: "I charged with a bunch of crimes and eventually, unable to withstand a lengthy and costly trial, I stood and pled guilty to those crimes and then spent four months — the summer of 2017 — at NYC’s Rikers Island jail.”
Where is Sarma Melngailis now?
Sarma currently lives in Harlem with her dog Leon who has his own Instagram account – @oneluckyrescuedog.
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In her words, she is still "in mourning" over Pure Food and Wine but, seems to be revelling some alone time as she wrote: "If you need me for the foreseeable future… will be hiding under covers spooning Leon."
In a recent update posted on her website, Sarma revealed that she "insisted" Netflix produced payment for work on Bad Vegan so that she could pay her former employees what they were owed.
She concluded: "I'm not stupid and I'm not crazy. I am humiliated and shamed by all the damage caused, but have been working to rebuild a strong foundation of self-reliance and self-awareness."
Stream Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives on Netflix now.
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