(Spoilers for Netflix’s Bad Vegan will be found below.)
Bad Vegan is Netflix’s latest in a line of scammer-focused documentaries and limited series. It’s perhaps the most unbelievable of the bunch, given that there’s talk of dog immortality and a “meat suit,” but if you’re into exploring a handful of episodes about people who’ve made the worst life decisions possible, it could be your thing. There’s also an odd Alec Baldwin connection, as well, but essentially, this is the story (which is at least partially true) of Sarma Melngailis, the wildly successful celebrity New York-vegan-restauranteur who fell from grace.
Long story short: Sarma entered into an incredibly bad relationship that waved an army of red flags from the beginning. She persisted, eventually embezzling money from her restaurant (while leaving her employees unpaid) and investors, funneling the dollars to Anthony Strangis (who operated under the “Shane Fox” pseudonym), and then they eventually became casino-frequenting fugitives. They got busted in the most bizarre way (shown in the series), and then Sarma served four months on Rikers Island.
The story’s sensational but pretty unbelievable at moments. Sarma’s narration often shows little affect and close to zero emotion, and there’s some lingering mystery when it comes to the woman dubbed as “the vegan Bernie Madoff.” Did she fall into a cult mentality, and/or is her story filled with holes? Whatever the case, as one user put it, “‘Bad Vegan’ literally saw ‘Tinder Swindler’ and said hold my beer rookie.”
— Chuck (@Calhoun_County_) March 16, 2022
It’s really bonkers. Sarma held an economics degree and ran two enormously popular restaurants but somehow started believing that Anthony/Shane had secret-agent/black-ops superpowers or something. A lot of heads are shaking.
thiiiiiiiissssssssssss man convinced a whole successful restaurant owner who went to Wharton that he’s an alien black ops who fights demons and monsters and will make her rich and her dog immortal…………#badvegan pic.twitter.com/QRn2SoG7Oj
— tanktop vegan (@mooo_fasa) March 16, 2022
They should have called this “Bad Liar”. A whole economics degree + worked on Wall Street but she wants us to believe she was this victim who knew nothing about the money and it was ALL HIM mxm #BadVegan #badvegannetflix #badliar #perhapsdrugs pic.twitter.com/oKq6GUNEcl
— Palesa Tsele (@Palliewale) March 16, 2022
Watching #badvegan and this woman is an ACTUAL idiot. I’m perplexed how a savy business woman can be so incredibly stupid.
— lexaprotegé (@agoraphobicpro) March 16, 2022
— Gracie Lou Freebush (@atargatis__) March 17, 2022
All of the wire transfers also added up (Sarma’s access to enormous sums of money is astounding) and served to break more deals for the audience, cautionary tale or not.
I need people to watch #badvegan right now. What the actual hell? I know I’ve been caught up in weird relationships before but how are these women falling for “I’ll make your dog immortal” and sending dudes millions of dollars when they’re waving planet sized red flags
— Emily (@ejweeks) March 16, 2022
I’m getting the clear message from Netflix:
— Teresa Blythe (@teresa_blythe) March 17, 2022
— Lexis (@lexisa_13) March 17, 2022
— Gracie Lou Freebush (@atargatis__) March 17, 2022
Maybe a little sympathy can be found for Sarma? It’s out there.
Can someone write a fat essay on the societal pressures of females to find love and how smart, successful women with money yet no partners fall for these manipulative, abusive males? Just cos I feel there are links between #TheTinderSwindler and #badvegan anyone else?
— izzi (@izzimadden) March 16, 2022
But mostly, people can’t stomach the resources squandered here.
— Chubby Chaser 3000 (@impatientburner) March 17, 2022
— AMM (@kolorMeYellow) March 16, 2022
The Alec Baldwin thing is actually rather amusing, if true.
— 𝒞. (@iamcedrica) March 17, 2022
Yet the story is kind-of a disaster. It’s sad not only for Sarma but also for the many people who paid for her bad judgment and continued belief in a clearly terrible man. She also didn’t apologize in the series, which ain’t great.
— Imma BFD (@ImmaBFD) March 16, 2022
You didn’t know y’all were fugitives in hiding but you hid you infamous tattoo, changed your name to Emma and moved away (place to place) with out paying your employees or your taxes. Like, girl! #BadVegan pic.twitter.com/CJPoL3QGtE
— What them hoes had said, nah? (@cutefaceshawty) March 17, 2022
— Queendom (@QueenBandit) March 17, 2022
— Kathy Williams (@latinchyck) March 16, 2022
I am usually on the side of the victim, but the fact that she still doesn’t take any accountability for the lives she destroyed of the people working for her and still talking to that idiot…. Damn! I am out…. #BadVegan #badvegannetflix pic.twitter.com/PogX5C2DYQ
— Oana Irina Lal (@oanairinalal) March 16, 2022
PEOPLE has now reported that Sarma claims to have repaid her jilted employees with money from the documentary. “Of all the harm and the many debts resulting from my downfall, this portion weighed heaviest,” Sarma expressed.
Bad Vegan (from executive producer Chris Smith of Tiger King and Fyre: The Greatest Party) is currently streaming on Netflix.