The Real Story Behind Netflix's True Crime Documentary Bad Vegan

A salacious new Netflix series based on one of the restaurant industry's most controversial figures is all but guaranteed to whet the appetites of true crime enthusiasts. The four-part documentary series, which will premiere on March 16, follows the sordid tale of former restaurateur — and convicted criminal — Sarma Melngailis (via People). "Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives" will follow the food star's fall from grace, which made national headlines and was the fodder for an in-depth Vanity Fair investigative report.

Once known as the "Queen of Vegan Cuisine," Melngailis first gained notoriety as the owner of the buzzy NYC raw vegan eatery Pure Food and Wine, a favorite healthful haunt of celebrities like Bill Clinton, Tom Brady, Alec Baldwin, Owen Wilson, and Woody Harrelson. The restaurant, which was described in the series trailer as "a high-end, fine-dining vegan experience," turned Melngailis into an overnight celebrity on the New York City food scene.

However, Melngailis' success was cut short in 2016 when the restaurateur was arrested — alongside husband Anthony Strangis — after 10 months on the lam for allegedly stealing nearly $2 million from her own restaurant business in order to fuel her husband's gambling addiction and support a lavish lifestyle of luxury hotels and expensive watches (via New York Post).

"It's the worst nightmare you can think of," Melngailis told The Post at the time of her arrest and imprisonment on NYC's notorious Rikers Island. "If I had terminal cancer, it would be better than this, because at least [then] I did not cause it."

The vegan restaurateur stole millions from her NYC eatery

"Bad Vegan," which was created by Chris Smith, executive producer of the hit documentary series "Tiger King," will depict how Sarma Melngailis went from a successful restaurateur to a criminal accused of tax fraud, theft, labor fraud, and grand larceny (via Eater).

According to Vanity Fair, the vegan entrepreneur's troubles began when she met Strangis on Twitter in 2011. The pair began a tumultuous — and to many, perplexing — relationship, during which Strangis allegedly resorted to "cult-like techniques," like sleep deprivation and gaslighting, in order to control everything in Melnagalis' life, including her finances.

Melngailis' relationship with Strangis, a convict who had previously been arrested for grand theft and impersonating a police officer, began surreptitiously, with the pair secretly getting married in a courthouse wedding in 2012. Over the course of their marriage, Strangis allegedly became more and more controlling over Melngailis, putting his wife through a series of demeaning "tests" and demanding large sums of money to feed his gambling addiction.

Over time, Melngailis transferred more than $1.6 million dollars to Strangis' bank account, including over $1 million in restaurant funds that should have been used to pay employees, investors, and taxes. While most people who knew the "vegan queen," believed Strangis' coercive control was what led her down a path of crime, others call Malngalis a "vegan Bernie Madoff," who tried to pawn off her scams and wrong-doings on her now-ex husband as part of a twisted true crime tale that will soon get the documentary treatment.