Sarma Melngailis, the founder of New York’s raw-food vegan restaurant Pure Food & Wine, suffered a dramatic fall from grace when she stiffed her employees, stole from investors, and went on the run with her husband, Anthony Strangis. A Domino’s pizza order, of all things, led authorities to the couple, who are now facing charges of grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, scheme to defraud, and violation of labor law. This summer, news broke that Melngailis was divorcing her partner in crime, so now, of course, the case is getting even uglier.
A new investigative Vanity Fair story reveals some crazy, startling information: Strangis may have used “coercive control” to essentially brainwash Melngailis, to the point where she believed her beloved pit bull was immortal. She says:
“He convinced me I’d be empowered in ways I couldn’t imagine. I would have access to unlimited resources so that I could grow my brand all over the world, make the documentary I always wanted to make—the one that would finally change people’s ways and help eradicate factory farming. Basically, I could do all the world-changing things I’d been quietly dreaming about. I could help whoever I want, and stay young forever doing it.”
According to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, the duo stole $2 million from the restaurant, and then gambled much of it away at casinos. But perhaps the worst offense of all, says one of Pure Food & Wine’s investors, is that “She is guilty of conduct unbecoming a vegan.”