News and rumors are coming often about Sarma Melngailis after Netflix released the documentary series, Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives. Her story is far more strange than fiction, where a New York celebrity vegan restaurateur ran away with her husband, Anthony Strangis, with almost $2 million dollars from her own restaurants. She eventually gets caught and pleads guilty and serves four months in jail for her crimes.
From a powerful businesswoman to a prisoner, her fate changed overnight. Later in their trial, Sarma Melngailis claims that Strangis, a conman, and her ex-husband manipulated her to steal all the money. He promised her he had the power to make her and her per dog, Leon, immortal so that she can move forward with her vegan mission forever.
But, this story comes with a lot of confusion. How did a grown-up, educated woman like Sarma Melngailis gets manipulated by a conman? What is the psychology behind her manipulation? Was she fully involved in the crimes like Anthony Strangis?
VeryWellMind decided to delve into these questions and answer them for once.
Anthony Strangis manipulation process
Bad Vegan shows Sarma Melngailis as a successful woman, an alumnus of business and culinary schools. She opened a vegan restaurant, Pure Food and Wine, with her ex-boyfriend, chef Matthew Kenney. In the first few months, she and Kenney were happy, but their relationship went south pretty soon. After Kenney left, Melngailis remained vulnerable and alone.
According to Rosalia Rivera, Consent Educator and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Specialist at CONSENTParenting, Anthony manipulates and grooms the right victim. Grooming usually happens with child sex offenders, but it happens with an adult too. And not every time is it about sex; sometimes it is also about money, as seen in Melngailis’ case.
Now let’s see what steps a manipulator takes to groom a victim like Sarma Melngailis.
Forming the relationship
After breaking up with Kenney and not forming a relationship with Alec Baldwin, Melngailis became vulnerable and open to manipulation. Anthony Strangis found an opening and became acquaintances with her, and showed that he really cared for her.
Solidifying the relationship
After forming a relationship, the next step for conman is solidifying the relationship. And that’s what Anthony Strangis did. He gave everything that Sarma craves, like gifts, attention, show-off love, and made her their lives were perfect.
Anthony made an impression that he is wealthy and can help Melngailis with her debts. So, they get married hastily.
After a con man makes his move to solidify the relationship, the next major step is to isolate the victim from the outside world. Cut them off from all the love, care, and attention they are getting from their loved ones. Make them believe they have only one loving person in this entire world. That’s what Anthony did with Sarma by keeping her away from the real people.
Coercion and Entrapment
Strangis had convinced Sarma that she had to give him money, and whenever she doubts, he slams and makes her feel guilty for not trusting her husband.
These are professional opinions on how Sarma was manipulated by her ex-husband. What are your thoughts on this?