In the most recent documentary on con artists coming to Netflix, “Bad Vegan,” there are more twists and turns in the tale than you think of.
The four-part series examines how Sarma Melngailis, the renowned restauranteur behind the famous New York eatery Pure Food and Wine changed from being a pioneer of vegan food to being a wanted woman known as”the “vegan fugitive.”
The story tells how, soon after meeting an individual named Shane Fox on Twitter in 2011, Melngailis began stealing her restaurant’s cash and then sending the cash to Fox. Fox was alleged to have manipulated her into believing that he could turn her and the pitbull she loved so much immortal (a claim that Strangis has denied) and then instructed her to transfer vast amounts of money to test her strong faith in the man.
After a few years, they married and then went on the run after stealing more than $2 million in cash from the eatery and its employees. Law enforcement officials later discovered them. They were secluded in the basement of a Tennessee motel following a misunderstanding when Fox committed the error of ordering a pizza for their room using an actual name, Anthony Strangis.
The story is unique in several ways. One of the most intriguing aspects can be the participation with Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin. Before Melngailis was arrested and was arrested, Alec Baldwin, the Saturday Night Live star, was one of Pure Food and Wine’s most famous patrons. He frequently posted about the restaurant on social media. “When in New York, folks, go to Pure Food and Wine even if just to stare at Sarma,” the actor once wrote on Facebook.
Baldwin and Melngailis were in the same restaurant and would often discuss over the phone and via email. The documentary states: “Sometimes when you meet someone, it feels as if you’ve known them for a long time. It was like that for him.”
Baldwin was a fan of Melngailis. However, she was already engaged at the moment. When he informed her that they wanted to get married, she suggested he opt for a pet instead. When she searched for dogs on the internet to adopt Baldwin, Melngailis discovered Leon, the pitbull, who she decided to adopt and name. Fox/Strangis later told she could immortalize.
“I was incredibly drawn to [the dog] for some reason I couldn’t explain,” she describes during the film. Then, a few days later, Melngailis and her boyfriend broke up, and she was devastated. She was regretful of “not going further with Alec” because her relationship had been dissolved in the first place. Later, Baldwin met his current wife, Hilaria, at Pure Food and Wine.
A relationship with Baldwin out of the question, Melngailis began to look at other possibilities. When she was in 2011, she realized that Baldwin was in a conversation with a man named Shane Fox online. Melngailis began to play with Fox playing the online game Words with Friends, and after several months of chatting online, they got together.
“I discovered Leon through Alec, and later Alec came across Hilaria at my restaurant, and it’s only fitting that I then met him through Alex. It was like everything seemed to make sense,” says Melngailis in the show.
The lawyer for Strangis has denied Strangis used handles or accounts linked with these allegations, nor was they seeking to put himself within Baldwin’s virtual circle.
When Melngailis became engaged to her future husband, Fox/Strangis, things started falling apart.