The Netflix documentaries Bad vegan opens with a phone call in between Sarma Melngailis and Anthony Strangis. It’s typical of what viewers, who have watched more than 44 million hours of the show in the month since it debuted, hear Strangis’ three-and-a-half hours: a disembodied voice warning his ex-wife about cheating Investors and employees at her trendy Manhattan vegan restaurant have been accused of not participating in the series they are watching.
“I’m not a goddam prankster,” Strangis warns in his three-part baritone. “I’m not someone to mess with.”
It turns out there was a lot more to the call than viewers heard.
I profiled the strange relationship between Melngailis and Strangis vanity fair 2016 was interviewed for Bad veganand am a consulting producer on a screenplay execution of the story in development for Peacock. I was fascinated by what became of Strangis after he was released from prison in 2017. I recently learned more about the phone call between Melngailis and Strangis, including some oddities amid the back and forth psychodrama. It was about the photos that triggered the resignation of US congressmen Katie Hill, a newly minted Democrat from the Los Angeles suburbs, in October 2019.
According to two sources familiar with the call, Strangis Melngailis said he knew about the photos before they were released. This came two weeks after news of the intimate photos showing Hill’s relationship with a co-worker and five days after her resignation. The photos were first published on right-wing blog RedState, but their origin has never been fully elucidated. Here was Strangis claiming knowledge of their existence prior to publication. On the call, sources said, Strangis suggested he was now working behind the scenes as a political agent.
At first glance, it might seem like yet another fabulistic boast from a man who, according to Melngailis, had variously claimed to be an undercover agent who could bestow immortality on her and her pit bull, Leon. Maybe something he just snapped off the news cycle at the time of the call to echo in his signature, knowing grimace. But then there’s something else I found recently: a marriage certificate showing that Strangis got married in a ceremony in Las Vegas on Aug. 10, 2021 Jennifer Van Laar, the RedState author who published the photos.
If Strangis got off the Rikers Island frying pan into the fires of Southern California’s Republican politics, despite owing more than $800,000 in compensation from a publicized crime and nearly $20 million in federal tax liens, according to another recently unearthed document , it would still be a twist in the Bad vegan Saga. The series chronicles how Melngailis, the owner of raw vegan hotspot Pure Food and Wine, met Strangis, a junk food-loving gamer Alec Baldwin‘s Twitter Mentions. Reportedly using gaslighting techniques between 2011 and 2016, Strangis convinced Melngailis that he was linked to mystical powers that could help her — as long as she married him, persuaded investors to put money into her restaurant, and continued to wire him money.
Melngailis’ restaurant went bust in 2015, and the couple dated for about a year. They were arrested at a Tennessee hotel and transferred to New York, where each pleaded guilty — Melngailis to grand larceny, criminal tax evasion and a fraud scheme, and Strangis to quadruple fourth-degree grand larceny — and were sentenced to prison and reparation. Melngailis was behind bars for a total of four months and Strangis for a year. They got divorced in 2018. According to the Netflix series, Melngailis remains saddled with $6 million in debt, and as I recently wrote, she works as an executive assistant.
The series spends less time on the fate of Strangis. Through his lawyer sam karliner, Strangis has long denied manipulating Melngailis. Strangis was not interviewed in the documentary and declined to comment on this article. Since Bad veganOn his debut, Strangis allowed Karliner to speak on his behalf once E! News, “Anthony is remorseful for the people at the restaurant who lost money and he took full responsibility for his part in it…. He has a job, uses his name, that’s behind him and she’s behind him.”
But in the last few conversations I had with Strangis’ half-sister, McKaila Coulter, who was not questioned bad vegan, She said Strangis has a driver’s license with a new surname and recently borrowed money from her which she is trying to collect. She also explained the origins of her brother’s offbeat stories, including the one about the meat suit.
Strangis was released from Rikers Island in May 2017. His suspended sentence, a five-year sentence, was transferred to Massachusetts, where he moved in with his mother. According to Coulter, he initially played video games — just like he did between 2011 and 2015, when he told Melngailis he was on covert missions and unavailable, Coulter said. “When he was free, you know, ‘fighting African rebels,’ he was actually gambling or at my mom’s house … in his bedroom playing Call of Duty,” Coulter said.
Initially, Coulter didn’t want to watch the four-part series, but her mother did when it was released on March 16. “I was like, ‘Mom, I can’t,'” Coulter said. Eventually she watched and tried to process it, becoming angry that her family’s struggles were not considered when dealing with her brother.
“Regardless of what happened to him as a kid, regardless of what he went through in life, he made his choices. I grew up with him in a pretty close-knit lifestyle and dealt with his issues,” Coulter said, “and I didn’t turn out to be a gambling scammer.”
The alternate reality where Melngailis claims Strangis made her believe was spun out of television, Coulter said.
“The meat suit? He accepted that supernatural,She said. The show is about two brothers fighting demons, and “flesh suit” is a term for human bodies possessed by a supernatural entity. “My mother used to call him Loki and me Thor,” Coulter said, who has a full-time job as a cell phone store clerk and has been in a relationship for about four years “Because Loki’s a trickster, a con man.”
She says that at some point Anthony changed. “My father left when I was little. So it was my brother, my mom and I,” she said. “And he was amazing. He was nice, he wouldn’t hurt a fly. He took me everywhere with him. There wasn’t a bad bone in his body.”
Strangis moved to live with his father in Florida in his 20s, Coulter said. According to his first wife Stacy Strangis, whom he met there, and if Anthony boasted that he had a huge inheritance and had been a Navy SEAL—which his sister says he wasn’t—his father would support him. “My mother would have said, ‘No, you’re from a middle-class family and you live in my basement,'” Coulter said.