Sarma Melngailis was stoney faced in Brooklyn Supreme Court as Justice Danny Chun ordered her jailed for stealing $844,000 from four investors, and failure to pay $400,000 in taxes.
Melngailis, 44, along with her estranged husband Anthony Strangis, entered a plea deal admitting guilt in a scheme that included neglecting paying 84 employees at her businesses Pure Food & Wine in Chelsea and One Lucky Duck juice bar in Gramercy.
As a condition of Melngailis’ plea bargain she only had to admit to stealing over $200,000 from one investor.
They couple allegedly spent $2 million at Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun Casinos and on luxury jewelry, trips to Europe and Uber rides.
Sarma Melngailis along with partner and husband Anthony Strangis faced charges on a 24-count indictment for fraud and Grand Larceny
Melngailis opened Pure, a restaurant, in 2004, One Lucky Duck, a juice bar, in 2012 and started an online business in 2012.
She ran all the companies from Flatbush in Brooklyn as one interconnected enterprise.
From January 2014 to January 2015, Sarma Melngailis transferred over $1.6 million from the business accounts to her personal bank account, prosecutors said. For five months of the same year 2014, she did not pay employees.
In January 2015, paychecks bounced, leaving 98 workers without pay.
Melngailis holds a plate featuring of her vegan creations the popular local heirloom tomato lasagna
Employees refused to work without pay, despite the owner’s urgings, and the business closed, prosecutors said.
In addition, Melngailis and her corporations failed to remit the required state sales taxes from the beginning of 2014 through the demise of the business for a total sales tax due of $409,987.56, according to the indictment.
They left New York in the summer of 2015 and were tracked to Las Vegas, Louisiana and Tennessee.
Sarma’s now estranged husband Anthony Strangis [photo], is said to have masqueraded as a wealthy businessman to lure the investors. He has been sentenced to time served after spending a year on Rikers Island.Vegan fugitives Sarma Melngailis and Anthony Strangis in 2015
Sarma Melngailis wept in court last year December when prosecutors offered her up to three years in prison if she pled guilty, after she was busted for stiffing investors and not paying employees
Melngailis, 44, and her estranged husband Anthony Strangis were separately offered one to three years in prison if they pleaded guilty to the top charge of second-degree grand larceny charges.
The couple had been extradited from Tennessee in May for failing to pay 84 workers of Pure Food & Wine and One Lucky Duck in Manhattan over $40,000 and stealing $844,000 from four investors.
Strangis, who masqueraded as a wealthy businessman to lure the investors, was sentenced to time served by the same judge after spending a year on Rikers Island.
Once Melngailis finishes her bid she will have to serve five years on probation and pay back $1.5 million in restitution.
If they had gone to trial and were convicted they faced up to 15 years in prison for the top charge of grand larceny.