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Vegan restaurant owner Sarma MeIngailis gave millions away to her gambler husband Anthony Strangis. While some thought that MeIngailis, highly regarded as a successful business owner, was just being reckless, she claims in Netflix’s “Bad Vegan” that she had actually been brainwashed.
So why did she give large sums of money to Strangis, who also went by Shane Fox?
MeIngailis, the owner of New York City’s now-defunct raw-vegan restaurant Pure Food and Wine, claims she gave him millions because she believed his promises. And these were no ordinary promises.
Strangis, who claimed he was not human, apparently managed to convince her that he would make Melngailis, and her beloved pit bull, immortal. He claimed that he was putting her through a series of tests that would prove her worth. These tests required her to make wire transfers to him, on-demand, of hundreds of thousands of dollars. In turn, he promised that she would become a queen in another form and realm and would achieve her greatest hopes and desires.
“He convinced me I’d be empowered in ways I couldn’t imagine,” MeIngailis told Vanity Fair in 2016.“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.”
He continuously promised her that the challenges she was enduring by draining her bank account for him were tests and that if she had faith, she’d eventually have unlimited funds.
According to the Vanity Fair piece, he referred to these challenges were “cosmic endurance tests.” If MeIngailis obeyed the tests blindly she would be rewarded with eternal life and an abundance of whatever she wanted.
She claimed that Strangis told her that she, and her dog Leon, had all been traveling toward him through past lifetimes. “Among the things I’d be granted,” Melngailis told Vanity Fair, “Leon would also be immortal and safe to be by my side for eternity.”
Strangis has denied making these claims, but recorded phone calls included in “Bad Vegan” appear to suggest otherwise.
By 2015, after warrants were issued for MeIngailis and Strangis because of their outstanding debts, they went on the run. They were found ten months later at a hotel in Tennessee. MeIngailis served four months at Rikers for grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and a scheme to defraud. Meanwhile, Strangis received five years of probation after pleading guilty in 2017 to the same charges.
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