Sarma Melngailis, a criminal nicknamed ‘Vegan Bernie Madoff’, has been sentenced to more than three months in jail after confessing to stealing more than $1million from former workers and investors.
Melngailis, 44, appeared in Brooklyn’s Supreme Court on Wednesday, June 21. She was accused of withholding $40,000 in wages from 84 employees, stealing $840,000 from investors, and siphoning a further $1.6 million from her business accounts.
The 44-year-old woman will serve her sentence at New York’s Rikers Island. Melngailis rose to prominence after her two restaurants, Lucky Duck and Pure Food & Wine, became trendy spots in New York City.
Melngailis, 44, along with her estranged husband Anthony Strangis, pleaded guilty to the scheme that included neglecting paying 84 employees at her businesses Pure Food & Wine in Chelsea and One Lucky Duck juice bar in Gramercy.
As a condition of Melngailis’s guilty plea she only had to admit to stealing over $200,000 from one investor. Strangis, who masqueraded as a wealthy businessman to lure the investors, was sentenced to time served by the same judge after spending a year on Rikers Island.
Once Melngailis finishes her bid she will have to serve five years on probation and pay back $1.5 million in restitution.
Had Melnagailis’ case gone to trial, she faced up to 15 years in prison for the charge of grand larceny if convicted.