Vegan restaurateur Sarma Melngailis is currently residing in Rikers prison while she awaits trial for stiffing Pure Food & Wine's former employees out of their hard-earned pay. Melngailis was charged with 24 counts of labor fraud, tax crime, and theft charges. The restaruateur and her husband Anthony Strangis owe approximately $1 million to employees and investors, plus $400,000 in taxes. Sarma tells the Post: "It’s the worst nightmare you can think of....If I had terminal cancer, it would be better than this, because at least [then] I did not cause it." Still, she vows: "When I come out, I will find something to do and pay it back." A lawyer for some of the ex-Pure Food & Wine employees refers to her as "the vegan Bernie Madoff."
Melngailis started to get involved with Strangis when he began working at Pure Food & Wine as a manager in 2013. The dude sounds like a straight up con-man: he had prior arrests for grand theft and impersonating a police officer; he probably lied to a former wife about being a Navy SEAL; and he reportedly posed in front of restaurant investors as "a wealthy man named Michael Caledonia." An ex-employee says that Strangis asked him to put money for Pure Food & Wine straight into the bank where he had an account, and "the [Pure] bank account would be cleared to zero dollars."
Sarma says that she kept eating vegan food while they were on the lam, and that he was the one who ordered the Domino's pizza that lead to their arrest. No word yet on when Melngailis and Strangis will be arraigned.