Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives Review – Shocking, and Outrageous, A Must See!

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Bad Vegan, a Netflix four-part documentary series, presents a modern Manhattan con, complete with high rollers, big money, new age mysticism, vegan cuisine, and the unlikely mark, Sarma Melngailis who became the center of this unbelievable scam.

Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives begins with the introduction of Sarma Melngailis, the Queen of Vegan cuisine, a petite, quirky, Manhattanite, grunge chic blonde with a twist of Greenwich Village bohemian thrown in the mix.

We meet her at her height, she is the celebrity restaurateur behind the glittering New York hotspot "Pure Food and Wine," in the restaurant capital of the world which is frequented by Bill Clinton and Alec Baldwin. She is living large capitalizing on the health food craze trend. She is part of the New York glitterati. Suddenly she and her partner split, and she becomes the sole owner of this very successful New York dining spot. She is suddenly famous, on television, book deals, courted around the world to franchise her restaurant.

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Of course, social media is a huge part of the campaign to keep the restaurant in the public eye. She meets a man on Twitter, who introduces himself as Shane Fox, they strike up a conversation, soon the social media conversations move offline, and they become an item.

We find out that he is an international man of mystery. He explains he is a contract covert Black Ops team member and at any given moment he may be notified of a mission. This seemed plausible, to Sarma and her family also. A good con has layers, built in buffers that protect the con from getting caught. To support this con, Sarma was introduced to a "middleman" to whom she would contact when Shane was out on a "mission."

When we meet Anthony Strangis, the man behind the façade, and hear from those who knew him, we realize in one way or another he has been perfecting this con all his life. His first wife explains he was the one great love of her life and in the same breath explains he destroyed her life. His ability to be saint and sinner, lover, and tormentor, seemed to resonate with each of the people who knew him.

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Soon Sarma adopts a pitbull, and names him Leon. Her social media snaps are filled with loving pictures of Leon and Sarma. He is the great love of her life, and absent of children the soft spot in her heart.

Sarma, in some ways, presented herself as an easy target on social media. Behinds her bohemian Greenwich Village personal style, which screamed "notice me," she was single, and in Manhattan single is always a target. Her life with Leon, her beloved animal presents another persona, not a woman with cats, but certainly, of that image. Her very successful restaurant and Vegan take out, which spelled independently wealthy, made her ripe for any con.

Soon we discover that Strangis is bilking her, taking her, for every red cent of hard-earned money. Soon they were living together, and finally they married. And dutifully she is paying him. His con centers on a 12-step to enlightenment and immortality for her dog, but only if she obeys his every request, which of course, includes sending him money.

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Throughout this trip she is constantly berated, verbally abused, mentally abused, the target of gaslighting, and like a drowning person hoping to find a way out she continues talking to Will the middleman, sending emails hoping for something.

Throughout the episodes Alan Salkin, the Vanity Fair Journalist who reported on the story, presents his opinions and questions. And while he did leave the viewer with the idea that there is no database to confirm the profession of Clandestine Operations, Black Ops, or other secret government mission personnel, essentially that is a misnomer. No person operating on that level would be without government support or a contract somewhere. People are introduced to those communities through other communities and not sharpshooting practice on a Connecticut farm.

Additionally, the idea of a pension or other payment, and yes, the story presents the appearance of big money, and the truth is cons are financed, the perfect con may cost each of its players $25,000 or more in a buy-in.

A clandestine persona allows people to live another life, even if it is a lie. It seemed easy to spot the red flags, and reminded me of the film "True Lies." The next red flag was the instant need for money, the dramatic if you don't, he, the mysterious wizard operating behind the curtain, will kill me.

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And of course, it is Manhattan where in the sea of people, everyone wants to be someone else.

Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives, a shocking, unbelievable, outrageous must see!


Country: USA.

Runtime: 45minutes per episode.

Release Date: March 16, 2022.

Director: Chris Smith.

Executive Producers: Chris Smith, Ryann Fraser, Mark Emms

Cast: Sarma Melngailis, Anthony Strangis.