Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. (2022) s01e02 Episode Script

Happily Ever After

1 So this is an email I sent to Shane.
February 10th, 2013.
"Everything is bagged and tagged where it should be.
" "It's in the hangar at 1:00.
" "Transport is at 1:30.
" "1:30 is your green light.
In and out.
" "Then get gone and stay gone.
" Anthony was always traveling mysterious locations and whatnot.
But if you ask me, "What does he do?" I wouldn't be able to give you a straight answer because I never really I never knew.
He never gave me a straight answer.
But because Anthony had access to all kinds of you know, power and funds, for my own protection, I needed to give Will access to my email, so that he could encrypt it all.
So what did you do for Shane? I guess you could say I'm in IT.
My job was to keep everything secure.
And to do that, I needed all of Sarma's passwords, and bank account info, and so on.
Do you remember when you met Sarma? I never met Sarma.
I was introduced to her online, and we were in contact for Um I don't know.
There were gaps, but I suppose for three or four year period.
Leon is Sarma's much beloved pit bull, and he's very important in this story.
This is probably the great romance of Sarma's life, Leon.
When Anthony comes into Sarma's life, he recognizes that Leon is extremely important to her.
Anthony would talk about past lives.
In Anthony's past life, an earlier version of Leon was his dog.
He made it seem like the two of them plus Leon have all been on this sort of march through time to end up together.
Anthony always said emphatically that he loved me, and he turned it into some sort of almost mythical thing.
Like, he has lived all these lifetimes and had been looking for me for a lifetime, and like, I'm the one, and I'm the most special person in the world and, "Are you who I think you are? I think you're the one.
" You know, so he sort of singled me out.
Like he finally found me.
In all our correspondence, he sort of shorthand refers to me as TBH, tiny blonde human.
He would always call me the tiny blonde human.
The implication being that he's not a human.
He's not.
He's something other than human.
He's something more than human.
And I am a mere human that he has, like, you know, he has chosen me, and now I should almost feel grateful.
It was that sort of dynamic.
I don't remember there being this moment where I crossed some threshold, where now I believe something.
And there wasn't any point in time where he came and presented me with this crazy story, and I decided to believe him.
It was just Everything was so gradual.
What eventually happens is that Anthony promises her that if she just followed along with the program he was suggesting, kept going along with what was instructed, he is going to make both Sarma and her dog immortal, just like Anthony is.
There was some magical force in play here.
And he's already in this special ethereal world because he's passed through the tests into this new state of being.
It's like some fantastical, magical future where my dog is going to live forever, and this reality didn't really matter because it would all be reset to some sort of utopia.
His "happily ever after" that he always referred to.
He would tell me that he had tons of money, and that money didn't matter.
Money would never be any object.
So he had me wire money to him to prove that I was committed to him, and that I was able to handle these tests.
Basically, all of that money was just sitting somewhere and then some.
And from there, he gave me some money back but not all of it.
The promise, though, was that, "The way you're going to get enriched in all of this is through way more money than I'm taking from you now, and your concerns over this money are irrelevant.
" I'm always gonna love you.
Sarma, we can have happily ever after.
I know it to be so.
That world that she's in, a vegan's, is also a world full of people who believe in New Age mysticism, palm reading, crystals.
She's sort of coming out of this ferment of things that are ethereal and don't obey the normal rules of life.
I tend to be open-minded about all of that.
So I don't dismiss it as being completely hokey.
It's interesting and fascinating.
I've tended to be drawn towards sort of more eccentric people, and have more eccentric, almost like back in high school, misfits for friends.
In high school, she was a loner, and she had the sense that she's different, that she's special.
The rules don't apply to her.
Those are for other people who are all living in a straight society, and she can pull it off differently.
I think this gave her a sense that there was something special in mind for her.
I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts.
A suburb of Boston.
I used to speak for her a lot.
She used to need me to speak for her a lot.
She couldn't express her thoughts and feelings.
I used to do that for her all the time.
She was a different person.
Typically, you know, that anyone would know.
She was just quiet and very self-contained, I guess is the right word.
My dad and Sarma are, in a lot of ways, cut from the same cloth.
My father is extremely smart.
He was a physicist and professor at MIT.
My two parents split when I was, I think, about nine.
I remember when they told Sarma that they were getting divorced.
You would expect Sarma to cry or scream or ask questions.
Sarma just looked at them and went upstairs to her room, and got under the covers and didn't come out for hours.
It might have even been like a whole day.
And then, she didn't talk about it after that.
I kept to myself a lot.
I read a lot of books.
I remember reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in junior high.
Other than that, it was relatively normal growing up.
Except for the green hair.
Yeah, I did do that.
There was some element of wanting to be different.
I sort of generally felt like I didn't fit in.
I never wanted to be normal.
I wanted to go do something else.
So that's what I did.
Pure Food and Wine was the top raw vegan restaurant in the world.
And Sarma wanted to take that to everyone in the world.
Make it as accessible as possible.
Sarma makes the best raw food in the world.
"Raw Food" is the new trend in USA.
Meatless but delicious.
So this is the juice bar, One Lucky Duck, right around the corner from Pure Food and Wine.
She did start to expand the business.
She opened up a companion business called One Lucky Duck.
One Lucky Duck was kind of the takeaway food of Pure Food and Wine.
I had big plans to really grow it in a big way.
We eventually were selling to more than 30 Whole Foods stores.
You go to the food store today, you'd see almond milk on the shelves.
Pure Food and Wine was kind of at the forefront of that.
She was really clear about the vision of Pure Food and Wine and One Lucky Duck.
She didn't want corporate people to come in and take over and just, like, destroy the vision.
At the same time, she was getting a lot of requests from people to open Pure Food and Wine in other places.
I had been flown to Japan and was courted by these really cool people that wanted to open up Pure Food and Wine there and One Lucky Duck.
She wanted to open up Pure Food and Wine in Los Angeles.
Went to Istanbul, and I could see this massive opportunity.
The business steadily got better and better.
Just judging by the books, the amount of guests, we were approaching 300 on nights.
As a whole company, we were around seven million in gross sales per year.
The debt was a constant topic of discussion, but there was light at the end of the tunnel.
We were going to get there.
We were operating in a profitable way.
I had been in the best position I was with the business overall in 2012.
The balances of all the different accounts of the different company entities was over 600,000.
And so I was able to give Jeffrey Chodorow $100,000 check.
I definitely was going to bring that to Jeffrey myself and hand it to him.
She had a note with it.
She says, "You don't know how good it makes me feel to" "That I can give this to you because you've been so supportive of me and good to me all these years, and you haven't put pressure on me.
" I was moved by that, you know? I mean, how many times does somebody owe you money, and they walk in and they, you know Now, she owed me a lot more than $100,000.
But how many times does that happen? Not too often.
At that point, I was in a really, really good position to bring on the right partner or find the right support, and kind of really move forward with the business.
Nothing really changed much after me and Anthony got married.
He was still traveling a lot from one place to another.
I brought him to the restaurant now and then, but he was also very content to, like, stay with me on the weekend, and have me make dinner and just stay in.
With the restaurant, Anthony had framed things in such a way as if he was protecting me and trying to guide me to make the right decisions and the right moves.
Shane would just hang out and watch TV in the office.
When I say "the office," it also was her apartment.
It was odd to have someone just hanging around.
People were respectful of the fact that, you're working out of her house, and she has a private life.
But with his presence known in the restaurant, I think that's when people became more suspicious of Shane.
No one made a formal announcement.
He just kind of came in and started kind of acting like he owned the place.
That's when I got worried because I was pretty sure whatever his background was, it didn't have to do with restaurants because he'd never talked about working in a restaurant before, anything about hospitality.
He would just make sort of vague statements about the future of Pure Food and Wine, and how big it could be.
We were all just kind of confused.
You know, like, "What is happening here?" Then Sarma just got, like, more and more introverted.
It wasn't this, like, get-the-glow girl anymore.
A lot of people felt like it was because Anthony came into the picture.
He would come by the restaurant, and he would often say, "Yeah, I wanted to run something by you.
Get your opinion on so and so.
" I was just like, "Why?" "Why do you want that? And does Sarma know?" When he would come in, I'd try to be hands-off.
You know, like, he just gave me, like, a bad vibe.
I tried to avoid, you know, having his table.
There did seem to be like a paranoia that was building up.
And there was one day when Shane showed up, and he was asking where this box of employee files are.
He found the box and took them.
I don't know what happened to the employee files, yeah.
Or why he needed them.
There were these weird metaphorical things.
He would call people "red shirts" and "blue shirts.
" He could look at somebody and know that's a bad person, or that's a good person.
He would sometimes say that about certain people that worked for me.
Could you read the instant message that you wrote to Sarma? "Sarma, this is Will.
I'm doing a weekly service on Shane's account.
" "Have you heard from him?" "He was gonna email me last night but never did.
" Sarma wrote back, "1:49 a.
He was in a car.
" "He basically said 'in car' and then, 'shit's going down.
'" I wrote back, "I can't get a fix on his phone.
" "So it's off or in a dead zone.
" "Second phone also no signal.
He's off the grid or in a hole somewhere.
" Sarma wrote, "That's reassuring.
" I said, "That was a poor choice of words.
I meant black hole, like no reception.
" Anthony always hinted at things, but he'd never say anything directly.
He would say that he suddenly needed whatever it was, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000.
And for me, that'd feel like such a big amount.
That's a lot of money that I could do with my business.
I could pay somebody.
I could do this.
I could do that.
So it frustrated me.
I had all of Shane's and Sarma's bank details.
So if Shane was busy, I would be the one to keep in contact with her and make sure that she was all right.
Sarma wrote to me, "Is he really hanging me out to dry this week?" "I need to know.
" "The very least he could do is give me the courtesy of letting me know.
" "Yes, I lied.
You're fucked this week.
You're on your own.
" "So you better start figuring out your shit now.
'" So my reply was, "I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're not fucked.
" "Lots of cash was moved last night.
" "It needs to be put in the books before it goes into your account.
" "That's as detailed as I can get in electronic mail.
" "That will happen this week.
Do not fret or do anything in haste.
" "Shane is in Africa fighting rebels.
" "Please do not mention to him that you know where he is.
" "It will make things bad for me, and it will upset him, and he needs to stay focused.
" "Try and understand.
Shane doesn't care if you hate him.
" "He doesn't care if he dies.
He doesn't care if you think he's lying, or if he's the bad guy, because he's not.
He knows that.
" "He knows that everything he's doing will all work out in the end.
" "He'd rather keep you shielded and let you think he's an asshole than ever risk you taking heat.
Some would think that noble.
" I feel like there were some things I could never concoct an explanation for.
He would do things that made it seem like he knew what I was thinking, or he knew what was about to happen.
There's one instance where she was at a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.
She hadn't told him where she was going to eat.
A member of the staff from the restaurant comes over and says, "There's a phone call on the house phone from Anthony for you.
" I feel like the whole time we were together, he was convincing me that nothing was real, that nothing really meant anything.
Money, the restaurant, debts.
That, like, everything could somehow magically be undone.
Things weren't real.
Leon was gonna live forever.
And I guess over time as, you know, one thing got weirder, that made other things less weird.
Then this got weirder, and that made this less weird.
Then all the weirdness just piled up where it started to feel normal.
When he would say things about, like, the family, it was as if he was referring to some sort of, like, more ethereal situation as opposed to an actual group of actual human beings.
The family are this overarching, kind of group of judges who are watching your every move, and are deciding, have you completed the tasks necessary, proven your soul to be in perfect alignment with what their goals are for you to pass through into this new state of being where you become the superpower.
Was there a house related to the family? Um he implied that there was a house related to the family in California.
Do you know if you needed to change physical form to enter the house? Oh, yeah.
He tells her, "If you don't keep going along, whatever these forces are, these mysterious ethereal forces are going to get angry, and they're not gonna give you everything you want.
" "You just need to hang on one more day, and then you'll get what you want.
" It's happily ever after.
Now she is that powerful figure who can have Leon live forever, and make the world as she wishes it was.
He would then tell me that if I didn't do what he said, "You'll lose all you ever care about.
" "Everything will be destroyed if you don't do what I tell you to do.
" He had this mysterious brother that he was always referring to as a sort of scary figure out there.
Something to be afraid of.
His brother could see anywhere and everywhere.
There was a lot of places where he said to do the wires, or things that he wanted me to do, which was always sending him a wire.
He would say that he was gonna be killed if I didn't do it, by his brother or "them" or something.
So there was a lot of moving around from place to place.
Because he would say that everything was always being watched.
And so I'd pack up all my stuff, and then he would take me away somewhere.
We'd go somewhere safe.
At this point, I spent a lot of time sort of operating out of hotel rooms.
Even in New York, he would put us in hotels.
He would say, "No, you can't go home to your apartment.
" That it was bad, like something bad would happen.
So there was a stretch where I was just working in the office all alone in Sarma's apartment.
This is when she refused to come into the office and refused to come into her apartment, and was living at hotels.
And I show up one Monday, and the cabinet doors are broken.
It looked like someone had maybe punched the cabinet.
That seemed really weird.
And I look around, and I notice that there's red marks on the floor.
I take a photo of it, and I send it to Sarma, and I'm like, "Hey, I think there's blood on the floor.
Like, what is this?" She was making up all these weird excuses that didn't make sense.
There was so much going on that at the time, you feel like it has to be worse than whatever excuse she gave.
Things just progressively got more and more disturbing.
I would demand some explanation for something, something crazy that he was telling me to do, or something I'd wanna know.
He'd say, "I can't talk to you now.
I'll have to wait till we're in the box.
" And so, "in the box" was another sort of shorthand way of um of saying that there was something that he could do that made it so whoever was normally listening to us wasn't listening to us.
One time specifically, we were somewhere in a hotel room.
He went into the bathroom, then he came out, and he was like, "Okay.
We're in the box now.
" And then, later on, I went into the bathroom, and there was a bunch of blood in the sink.
Do you know about the meat suit? Lady Gaga's meat suit, or is there another meat suit? What is the meat suit? Oh no.
What's the meat suit? What is happening? Let's go back to where we were.
So we talked about, um I'm gonna need a minute.
What? My interpretation of what the meat suit is, was that Anthony was gaining weight over time.
And at first, when they met, he wasn't the man he appeared to be in his Twitter photo, but he wasn't the 300-pound, you know, unhealthy, overweight fellow who subsisted on, you know, tuna fish sandwiches with extra mayonnaise from Subway that he became.
He always said that his gaining a lot of weight was intentional.
I was supposed to be disgusted by him, and it was all some kind of big test.
As if he was doing that as something he had to do as part of this whole bizarre process that I was being put through.
The only person that could at all understand what was going on, or that I felt I could confide in at all, was, um Nazim.
This guy that he had sort of lured into his orbit and brought on as some sort of assistant.
When I met Anthony in 2013, I was a bartender at the place on 21st Street, same block where Anthony and Sarma live.
He became a regular customer.
He was coming, like, twice a day.
Yes, four, five times a week.
He told me he was ex-military.
He had the scars.
He showed me scars and all that.
He told me that when he went to the war, they buried some of the treasures.
He's a very intelligent guy and, of course, he was able to impress with his whole lifestyle.
Successful wife, beautiful wife, bling-blings like Rolexes and all that.
And we start talking about business opportunities.
He offered me an opportunity to become a partner in opening a new juice bar.
Sarma is a very successful woman, so, uh Of course, I couldn't miss this chance.
And I always wanted to be in restaurant business myself.
I made my first investment, $35,000 directly to Antony.
We didn't sign any papers.
I know he treated Nazim a lot in the same way that Similarly, he, you know, sort of ordered him around, and whatever messed up dynamic there was.
But with me and Anthony, there was some sort of variation of that.
At the time when we're hanging out, I got into a fight in a subway.
And, yeah, I had a bruise after the fight.
He actually made it sound like artificial, something very devil came.
Always something paranormal going around us.
One night, he called me.
He was like, "Naz, devil talks to me.
" "He's talking to me that I got to collect souls.
" I was like, "Come on, man.
" Because I'm a religious man myself.
I was like, "Buying souls? What are you talking about?" Then he realized that it doesn't work on me.
Let's say when he puts lie, lie and another lie, and I ask him, "Listen, like, three weeks ago, you said it a bit different.
" "So there is It's not matching.
" Then he started becoming very angry.
Like throwing stuff, like pissed off, and like, "Ah, you're not listening.
" And I was like, "Listen, this man believes that, and he lives in his own dream.
" It's very difficult to convince him that this is wrong.
At that time, I was with Sarma, and he called and I told her, "Listen, you better record this.
" Anthony, he always recorded Sarma.
He was weird about all that.
He recorded even our conversations between me and him.
But he said that's his ex-military thing, uh, which he always keep records.
Sarma started doing the same, which I think is the right thing to do because he was threatening her.
And there were a number of times I did record him or our conversations, but I was I was always afraid I would get in trouble for it.
And when I say "get in trouble," it's not just him.
It's like some sort of mysterious, like, "them," that over time, I started to feel like no matter what I did, they would know about it.
So if I tried to do something behind his back, he would know anyway.
So I was always terrified, and I'd just delete it.
But the way that I got somebody else to hold on to it for me as I played it off my phone and had him hit record on his phone, and so, he recorded on his phone that way.
One night, Sarma called me and said, "You need to delete that recording.
" "He's writing me.
" "He has her information.
" "And you better delete that.
" So, which I said, "Okay.
" But I never did, of course.
What was the Indiana Jones speech? Um so he referred to this scene from Indiana Jones on a cliff scenario, and he has to, like, step off of it.
So it might seem like I'm endangering myself, but, no, I just have to trust him.
Trust that the net is gonna be there.
It felt like some sort of twisted nightmare because he'd already gotten so much money out of me that to decide suddenly that he's completely full of shit, and he's a con artist and, you know, to acknowledge that and just say, "Get out of my life, get away from me, I'm gonna call the police, go," would be to accept the loss and kind of give up on this happily ever after fantasy that he was still selling me, that I clearly very much wanted to believe in.
Looking back, you know you could have gone to your family.
There were people you could reach out to, if you had explained How? Explain what? I mean, how would I explain it? And what would my family do other than, like, you know, kind of have me committed to an institution? Which would be preferable to what happened.

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