Bad Vegan: Did Sarma Melngailis actually serve jail time?

Sarma Melngailis in Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. Cr. Netflix © 2022
Sarma Melngailis in Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. Cr. Netflix © 2022 /

Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. is currently the number one hit on Netflix. Like The Tinder Swindler before it, people are fascinated by these true crime documentaries and docuseries. In the latest show, we follow the story of Pure Food and Wine founder Sarma Melngailis.

Melngailis was once considered vegan royalty when she opened her raw-food restaurant, but she lost everything after getting involved with conman Anthony Strangis, alias Shane Fox. The two got married, and over time, Anthony slowly drained Melngailis’ bank accounts by convincing her (and even her mother!) to give him millions of dollars.

Throughout their whirlwind romance, Melngailis became a pawn in Strangis’ game as he used coercive methods of control to get her to do what he wanted, including telling elaborate lies about why he needed so much money from her. She was taking money out of her business accounts, which eventually resulted in Melngailis unable to pay her restaurant staff.

Melngailis transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars from her investors and business accounts to casinos frequented by Strangis. They eventually had to go on the run as fugitives and were arrested in May 2016 at a Tennessee hotel.

Bad Vegan: Sarma Melngailis served four months at Riker’s Island

After they were arrested, Strangis and Melngailis were charged with second-degree criminal tax fraud, second-degree grand larceny and several other serious criminal charges. They might have spent 15 years in prison if they had been convicted, but the pair opted for plea deals.

Often when celebrities or high-powered individuals get arrested, they never serve time, but Melngailis and Strangis did. Melngailis pled guilty to criminal tax fraud charges, grand larceny, and a scheme to defraud. In return, she was sentenced to five years probation and four months in jail.

Bad Vegan: Where did Sarma Melngailis serve her jail time?

In 2017, Melngailis served her time at Rikers Island in New York. In 2018, she officially filed for divorce from Strangis.

In Bad Vegan, the restauranteur says she had over $6 million of debt and collateral damage and admits she asks herself why she didn’t leave Strangis every day.

"“Why didn’t I call the police? That’s the big question. I believed, in a sense, that these things were reality.”"

Learn the entirety of Melngailis’ story in the four-part docuseries Bad Vegan, now streaming on Netflix.

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