From ‘Clean’ Living to a Life on the Lam

At Vanity Fair, Allen Salkin examines the downfall of Pure Food & Wine proprietor Sarma Melngailis. It all seems to stem from her involvement with Anthony Strangis, an ex-gambler she met on Twitter and then married, and whose alleged “coercive control” may have led the vegan icon and Wharton graduate to destroy her business and become a fugitive from the law:

A source close to Melngailis describes a scenario in which Strangis resorted to cult-like techniques, including gaslighting, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation, to control her. (Strangis, through his court-appointed attorney, Samuel Karliner, denied all these allegations but did not elaborate on his denials in responding to 80 questions from Vanity Fair.) Perhaps if you can understand how a sane, successful businesswoman comes to believe the insane idea that her dog can live forever, everything else snaps into focus—how that person might be accused of bilking her investors of $844,000, owe her employees more than $40,000 in unpaid wages, financially strip her restaurant, and now find herself awaiting trial, with a potential 15-year sentence. She had thought all harm would be magically reversed, just as Leon’s life span would be extended, according to her camp.

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