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Crime News

Who Is Restauranteur Jeffrey Chodorow, An Early Investor In Pure Food And Wine?

Chodorow was called the "Donal Trump of the restaurant world." 

By Gina Tron
Jeffrey Chodorow Sarma Melngailis G

Many people, from investors to relatives to employees, were victimized by vegan restaurant owner Sarma MeIngailis who gave millions from her company away to her gambler husband Anthony Strangis. Restauranteur Jeffrey Chodorow, who was an early investor in Pure Food and Wine, took a huge loss.  

Chodorow financially backed Melngailis' Pure Food and Wine restaurant which she opened with her then-boyfriend and chef Matthew Kenney, in 2004. Chodorow, known for opening hotspots like Asia de Cuba, believed their concept could work. 

"I'm really attracted by new food ideas and new ways of doing things," Chodorow says in "Bad Vegan." He was impressed by MeIngailis and Kenney's idea to have a restaurant that was all raw and became one of the earliest investors. 

While that restaurant, as well as MeIngailis’ One Lucky Duck business became wildly popular for their raw-vegan cuisine, the honeymoon phase didn't last long. First Kenney and MeIngailis split and both refused to leave Pure Food and Wine. Kenney asked Chodorow to expel Melngalilis from the restaurant, but at the time, Kenney had a reputation for being bad with money. Chodorow sided with MeIngailis, a fellow Wharton Business School grad. He sold her the restaurant, which had about $2 million, but which she then in debt, but which she then owned outright.

As Netflix’s “Bad Vegan” shows, MeIngailis then married gambler Anthony Strangis, who also went by the name Shane Fox, at a time when she was deeply in debt to her investors and employee. Strangis claimed to have millions of dollars, and, at first, helped her out financially. 

But then, he began draining all her funds. 

He apparently managed to convince her that he would make both her and her beloved pit bull immortal. He claimed that he was putting her through a series of tests to do so. 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 that all her hopes and dreams for her life would come true. 

By 2015, MeIngailis and Strangis were on the run from investors and law enforcement. After 10 month they were found holed up in 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.

Chodorow is still backing and opening restaurants. Last year he told the Commerical Observer that he was gearing up to open up a new spot in Miami. 

The restaurant creator is no stranger to the criminal justice system himself. He spent four months in prison for obstruction of justice after admitting to providing a false affidavit about "the improper involvement of a partner" in the management of Braniff Airlines, which he co-owned of in the 1990s, reported the New York Times article. The report referred to Chodorow as "the Donald Trump of the restaurant world" who involvement in 24 restaurants in 2005. He pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice the Associated Press reported at the time.