Sarma Melngailis, owner of the now-closed vegan hot spot Pure Food and Wine, was finally caught last May after several months on the run. From everything we understand, her restaurant was one of New York’s hottest places to be and be seen and counted a number of Hollywood heavyweights as fans and regular attenders. (I’d been there, spoken to her, and even own her cookbooks!)
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At some point, she stopped paying her employees and took off. When she initially went on the run in 2015, she owed a reported $800,000 to investors, $400,000 in sales tax, and $40,000 in employee wages. She was finally caught when Strangis ordered a Domino’s pizza to their hotel room.
This past Wednesday, in Brooklyn Supreme Court, she accepted a plea deal, bringing her long, odd saga to an end. “She received a split six-month sentence and will serve four months in jail plus five years’ probation for grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and a scheme to defraud.” 1
For her part, Melngailis says Strangis is to blame. In fact, a source close to her said Strangis used cult-like techniques during their marriage (gaslighting, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation) to control her. Strangis denies this.
“Perhaps if you can understand how a sane, successful businesswoman comes to believe the insane idea that her dog can live forever, everything else snaps into focus—how that person might be accused of bilking her investors of $844,000, owe her employees more than $40,000 in unpaid wages, financially strip her restaurant, and now find herself awaiting trial, with a potential 15-year sentence. She had thought all harm would be magically reversed, just as Leon’s (her dog) life span would be extended, according to her camp.” 2
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This whole thing has been so sad but it’s nice to see it all coming to an end. Hopefully, Melngailis can get some help.