What Makes The True Crime Story So Weird

After the shenanigans of rogue tinder and Invent AnnaNetflix gave us an even more confusing view of scammers and charlatans with Bad vegan: fame. Fraud. Fugitives. This four-part series follows the story of raw vegan restaurateur Sarma Melngailis, former owner of New York’s vegan restaurant Pure Food and Wine, who served time in prison for her financial crimes. But that’s not what makes this story weird.

With promises of immortality, endless riches, and tales of reincarnated kindred spirits thrown into turmoil, this series tackles acceptance of the cult and the people who are susceptible to it. Especially in the new age spiritual realm, which tends to be a magnet for people with delusions of grandeur. When people experience trauma, they may become more prone to dissociate from reality. The promises of stepping out of dark reality, of waking up from pain to ultimate freedom of mind and soul may be far too powerful for many to walk away from.


In a way, we can write bad vegan to one person’s madness, which is perhaps why the series feels tame to most true crime aficionados. However, many suspect that a Wharton alum who ran a multi-million dollar business was by no means foolish enough to fall for such a scam and was in on it all along. In both cases, Bad vegan: fame. Fraud. Fugitives makes good entertainment and also makes us wonder about people’s credulity – provided we suspend our disbelief.

Bad Vegan: the story told to us

bad vegan

In 2012, Sarma married Anthony Strangis, who first gave her vague information about being a secret agent, then eventually promised her (and her dog Leon) immortality and untold riches. . So, beyond any logical explanation, Sarma gave him money whenever he asked and went where he told him. It ultimately bled her restaurant, and when the employees went on strike demanding their wages, Sarma fled with Strangis, though she maintains she didn’t know she was running from the long hands of the law.

Sarma pleaded guilty in May 2017 to defrauding her investors and employees, stealing more than $2,000,000 from her company and being charged with tax evasion. She was sentenced to four months in prison, and Strangis served just over a year in prison.

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Noted for her innovative culinary business and celebrity clientele, Sarma was no stranger to the spotlight herself. From magazine articles to television coverage, his professional success has brought him great fame. It still wasn’t enough. According to the Netflix docuseries, Sarma has always seen herself as different. It may sound like the story of every rebellious child who wants to leave a legacy of being an iconoclast. But with Sarma, it was the lure of something more than the mundane that led to his eventual downfall.

The tales of the supernatural do not explain why Sarma would conspire with Strangis to defraud his investors. When Strangis pretended to be Michael Caledonia, someone she claimed wanted to sell her business to recoup her losses, she accepted the lie. When his employees discovered that it was indeed someone called Anthony Strangis and not Shane Fox as he had stated earlier, Sarma chose to ignore him as well. These are questions left unanswered on the show so the audience can connect the dots and come to solve a mystery on their own. After all, that’s part of the fun of watching or reading crime stories, whether true or not.

Extreme Vulnerability and Cult Acceptance


If we can keep our skepticism aside for a second, we can believe that Sarma did not intentionally commit his crimes. That she was indeed under the spell of an emotionally manipulative con man who came into her life at a bad time and took advantage of her. This brings us to the disturbing notion that even an educated and intelligent person can fall for a scam like this. What Sarma did puzzled people. But the truth remains that vulnerability and desperation can cause human beings to do strange things. She was already going through emotional turmoil in her personal life which, combined with running a massive business, could have taken her down a scary path.

There is no justification behind such behavior, just as there is no way to explain why some people are an easy target for cults to indoctrinate. They seek to be accepted, saved, or absolved of their mortal obligations to be special.

For example, in four years, Ramesh Kumar Swain, 66, defrauded and married 27 women in 10 Indian states before being caught in 2022. His victims included a Supreme Court lawyer, an officer in a paramilitary force , a senior executive of an insurance company, administrative officer of Kerala, chartered accountant and even doctors. Just like Sarma, these were educated women with prominent careers. The fact that society puts unreasonable pressure on women to marry, mixed with a desire for companionship, could very well explain why they did what they did.

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At one point in the docuseries, Sarma confesses that Strangis’ promises to take care of her financially were a motivator for rushing into marriage with him. Despite having doubts about his character, everyone around Sarma believed in the tall stories Strangis told about wealth. He wore expensive watches, drove expensive cars, and carried precious stones while being extremely careful about what he was doing. Everyone has succumbed to the superficial displays of their imagined wealth. Of course, Sarma should have known better than to believe that he was a celestial being waiting to come out of his “meat suit” and help him do the same. But then again, she wouldn’t be the first victim to fall prey to promises of greatness or enlightenment instead of obedience.


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