After months of mulling€‹ a plea deal€‹, New York Citys most infamous vegan has admitted to taking part in a scheme to defraud investors in her popular, star-studded Gramercy eatery.
Celeb restaurateur Sarma Melngailis steadied herself at the defense table Wednesday as she agreed to plead guilty to charges of grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and a scheme to defraud in exchange for five years probation and a split six-month sentence.
Per the sentencing guidelines, she will only serve four months behind bars.
Melngailis voice quivered as she hid behind her shimmering golden hair while copping to the various charges before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun.
Chun said that even sympathetic investors in the now-shuttered Pure Food and Wine €‹who were €‹swindled by Melngailis€‹ €‹€” and her estranged, career-criminal hubby, Anthony Strangis€‹ €‹€” submitted letters asking the judge to spare her from jail.
The restaurant was once a hot spot frequented by the likes of Alec Baldwin €‹and Chelsea Clinton.
Melngailis and Strangis were nabbed in May 2016 after allegedly stealing $844,000 from investors, failing to pay $400,000 in sales tax, and shortchanging employees by more than $40,000 in wages, prosecutors said at the time.
The couple then flitted off on a yearlong spending spree that eventually landed them at a Tennessee hotel, where they were discovered by cops after placing a decidedly non-vegan order at a nearby Dominos pizza.
The jurist admitted Wednesday that, after poring over case material, it was clear to him that there was evidence the 44-year-old had been trying to run her business in €œgood faith€ while becoming further entangled in her abusive marriage.
€œShe was badly abused and controlled by a lifelong predator and fraudster,€ defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, referencing Strangis, said as a quivering Melngailis stood nearby.
Calling the purported gambling addict a €œcomplete maniac,€ Lichtman added: €œThere is not a cage big enough, literally or figuratively, that can hold [Stran€‹€‹gis]. His only concern upon getting out will be finding his next victim, so he can go on, not working, preying upon someone elses hard work.€
€‹She must surrender to court on June 21, when she will be transported to state jail. It was not yet clear which €‹penitentiary she would be housed in. If she runs, she could face up to 15 years in prison, Chun reminded her.
Melngailis declined comment as she left court accompanied by family, her eyes red.
The hefty Strangis, who also goes by the name €œShane Fox,€ is scheduled to walk free May 22 after a year behind bars, per the terms of his plea deal. Strangis, who claims Melngailis threw him under the bus, pleaded guilty in March.