Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. (2022) s01e03 Episode Script

No Angels in Hell

1 [somber music playing.]
The first year, which we spent with Anthony as friends and as in working, six months, he spent in the Foxwoods Casino.
One time, it was thirty days straight.
When we went to the casino, everybody knew Anthony.
I realized he was a high roller player out there.
Limos, free suites.
And sending you a car to New York to pick you up and drive to the Foxwoods.
At the beginning, I felt he has money.
Nothing wrong with being a gambler.
If you make money, you can spend some money, no problem.
He was even sometimes up, sometimes down, but he always had the cash around.
Sometimes, he played with three slot machines and roulette at the same time.
You know, I was like, "Anthony, you should slow down.
" "This is not the way it works.
" He was like, "I know what I'm doing.
" And I was like, "Well, something is wrong.
" We were spending, like, six hours, seven hours at the slot machines.
So I went to the room.
I slept for, like, eight hours.
Where is Anthony? He's not here.
So I go downstairs.
He's still playing.
Sarma was pissed at him.
She called him.
She was in the speaker, and she started yelling at him, "What are you doing?" And asked for the money.
That was the time when I realized that some of this money coming from the restaurant business, it went straight to Anthony's pocket, and he was playing with that money, trying to win his fortune.
At some point, I actually believed him that if he won some money, he was willing to help Sarma.
He's not, like, a super bad guy.
He's an addicted gambler, but at the time when I discovered it, it was already kind of late because I already gave him money.
I gave to Anthony, as an, according to him, investment, over a hundred thousand dollars.
If I would walk away at that time, I'd lose everything.
I knew that I won't be able to return all of my money.
So I was like, "Okay, if we spend a month at the Park Avenue Hotel, why not?" You know what I mean? And if we spend some time meeting some famous people, why not? I mean, listen, don't take me wrong.
There is no angels in hell.
We're all, uh, part of this whole collapse.
[ominous music playing.]
One time, Anthony asked me to drive with him from New York to Florida.
He couldn't fly because he thought he would be arrested.
He was on probation at that time in Sarasota because he had stolen a luxury car.
Don't take me wrong.
For me, as being from Russia, this is regular stories, being arrested or things like that.
So I said, "Okay.
" He's my friend.
"I'll help you.
No problem.
" We stayed at the Ritz Carlton with the best view, whatever.
So he spent a lot of money on that.
I drove him to the court.
They put handcuffs on him.
After 20, 24 hours, I guess, he was released.
He was so happy.
He said, "Can we go and stop by at one place?" I said, "No problem for me.
I don't care.
" He was driving.
It was late.
He passed by the house.
I was like, "Why did we go there?" And he was like, "I just wanna see, like, my ex-wife and kid.
" [woman.]
So you guys want me to tell all the lies that Anthony told me? Like, all the stories? Because I have a ton.
[somber music playing.]
This is a picture of Anthony and I.
Um You can tell how happy I am here.
I was pregnant with Riley.
There was really nothing abnormal about my life until I met Anthony.
He told me he was a Navy SEAL who was shot in the line of duty, who was in Florida recuperating.
His father did confirm that Anthony was a Navy SEAL.
He confirmed that Anthony was shot in the line of duty.
So his father confirmed all these stories to me.
So I believed both of them.
He told me that we were reincarnated lovers who kept finding our way through time.
I was like, "Really?" And I was so in love with him, I was like, "Maybe that's true.
" We went to Las Vegas, and we got married three months after we were dating.
He told me that his aunt died and left him five million dollars.
He went as far as to go to Raymond James financial firm, set up an account for him to spend money.
Set up an account for me to spend my money.
Set up an account for my daughter for her college.
When things really fell apart was when the check never came from the aunt with the five million dollars, and we were just flat broke, and Anthony would not get a job.
Then I was pregnant.
So after Riley was born, he told me, "Do you know you can kill a baby by giving them salt, and it doesn't show up in an autopsy?" I was like, "Are you crazy?" And I never left Riley alone with him ever.
[soft music playing.]
That man had me believing that demons were after him.
He called them "they.
" He's like, "You don't understand.
" "They've always been after me.
They've been hunting me my whole life.
" I'm like, "Then why aren't you dead?" He's like, "They're not able to find me.
" "And if you ever taste a metallic taste in your mouth, run.
" Anthony and I would fight so often, and he would go back and forth between my house and his father's house.
Him and his father were playing poker one time.
 And they got into a fight.
Anthony's dad told him he was gonna stab him to death.
Anthony told his dad he was gonna choke him to death.
It scared me to death.
I was gonna leave.
They said both that they were sorry.
They went right back to playing poker.
Anthony's father was an alcoholic, violent gambler, who was a cop in Massachusetts.
And at one point, Anthony was playing with dice at home, and he says out loud, "Baby needs a new pair of shoes," which is what a gambler says when he's throwing dice, you know, in a craps table.
And the mother is horrified, realizing that the father's probably been holding Anthony in one arm and throwing the dice with another.
And this becomes a whole confrontation between the two of them, and she wants to throw him out, and then he shows up drunk with a gun and holds the family hostage for a while.
Finally decides not to kill everybody.
No murder-suicide results.
Leaves the house.
She calls the cops, right? But he's a cop.
So the cops are defending their own.
Instead of them actually sending out help for the mother, they call the father.
He comes back, rips the phone off the wall, and then walks out again.
How things ended finally? We went to the hospital because his father had a heart attack.
And he had heart surgery.
And my daughter and I left.
She had a baseball game.
He says, "I'm gonna stay a little longer.
" I said, "Don't be late.
" "It's our turn to work the concession stand tonight.
" I had never seen or heard from Anthony again.
It was a year after Anthony left.
And then slowly, I started getting my life back, but it took a long time to get over Anthony.
I still loved him.
I feel that it was one of the greatest loves of my life.
There was something about him that I just thought if I kept giving him a chance, and I just believed in him, that I could fix him.
But there was nothing I could do about it.
I figured he just found another me.
I feel like, the whole time, it was as if I had one foot in Anthony's reality and one foot in "reality" reality.
And, you know, it was like there was this push and pull.
But somehow, his reality always won out.
He always kept me on that side of it.
[unsettling music playing.]
There was a series of cosmic endurance tests that Anthony told Sarma she had to perform in order to get to the world that was promised.
He sent me to Rome by myself.
It was a one-way ticket, so I didn't know how long I was gonna be there.
He had made all the arrangements, and I was in some sort of weird hotel in a weird part of town.
He had made it seem like something was gonna happen, that was some reason for this trip.
He basically told me that the family, or whoever these other people were, that, "They think that you can't get through this.
" If she could do this and keep a kind of still and faithful heart in the whole process, then the family, these judges, who were over everything, would kind of give her merits, and she would get closer to being led into this magical world, where she would have unlimited riches, immortality, and power.
I would use a card that he gave me.
It was a certain amount of money that I could go by myself to a nice restaurant, or go here and there.
I have these really nice memories of walking around Rome by myself, especially when the time difference was such that kind of nobody was really bothering me from back home.
Being there felt Sometimes it felt surreal in a good way because I probably wanted to get away from everything that was happening.
She was usually so good about getting right back to any texts or emails, especially when I was at the restaurant, but she was good about that in general.
And then that became less and less that she was replying about, like, work stuff.
It was like she was kind of fading out, but then we were hearing more from Shane, which made no sense to any of us and didn't make anyone feel that comfortable either.
The servers and staff were like, "We don't know who this guy is, or what his role in the restaurant is.
" Restaurants have very specific hierarchies of roles, like, you know, a busboy and a server.
And he was like, "I'm the boss's right-hand man.
" "So basically, just give me whatever money you made, and I'll go deposit it in the bank.
" [Nazim.]
He sent her away to make sure that she's not gonna prevent any decisions which he did according to the restaurant, money, movements.
And yeah, it was a fun time.
We were living at the nice hotel.
I met up with Anthony at a hotel and, like, Nazim was He met me in the lobby, and they were at the top mezzanine floor renting something out that was really nice.
And Nazim kind of like was taking care of Sarma's dog at the time too.
Anthony would buy me lunch, talk about, like, how we're gonna take Pure Food and Wine to the next level.
I was hoping that it was true what Anthony was saying.
Like, you know, we're right on the edge of taking it to the next place.
Shane did start to hang out at the restaurant a bit more.
I really noticed it because he had called a meeting, which was weird.
It was weird for him to call a meeting.
Sarma was supposed to be at this meeting.
And then, basically, Shane showed up at this meeting, and Sarma didn't show up at this meeting.
[Anthony speaking.]
[woman speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
He uses that time to sort of say that everything's fine.
From now on, he's gonna make sure that if there's a problem with money, someone can contact him and he'll make sure that everything's paid.
[Anthony speaking.]
- [Anthony speaking.]
- [man speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
No one feels reassured after that meeting.
No one believed a thing he said.
It just made people even more upset.
This, like, guy who could possibly be, like, a con artist is coming to you and lying directly to your face.
While I was in Rome, he had me wire away money to him, over 100,000 dollars, which meant there wasn't enough money to make payroll.
So I was in Rome from a hotel room trying to find somebody that would loan me that money.
This was a DM between myself and Sarma.
She said, "Unless my company is made safe by return of those funds, I'm going home.
" I responded, "You should do whatever you feel is right.
" She said, "What's right is not fucking with me.
" "It's taking care of those who rely on me.
" I said, "Stay calm.
You need to know this is serious.
" "It's a situation that's easily handled, but it's not a joke or a game.
" "You need to be sharp.
" [Sarma.]
I think I was there for ten days by myself.
Again, it was like this was all just part of some totally fucked up test that I was being put through, and I had to prove myself.
Prove that I could do this.
And I did it.
I got somebody to loan me 100,000 dollars to make payroll.
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
Anthony told Sarma the reason to go to Rome was, "Here's a chance to meet my brother.
" And the profile that had been presented of him as this kind of international, you know, soldier of fortune would fit with, "Well, he needs to meet you in Rome.
" [Nazim.]
She actually felt like she was going for a mission.
Mission impossible.
There were no mission.
It was just a lie, another lie.
But she believed in him.
This is what so kind of disturbing and yet beautiful about what Anthony created.
He is creating it out of his own sort of palate of important things in the world.
I don't watch a lot of movies, but he does.
And I realized he kind of had this thing for Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor.
At some point, I should've realized, like, "Wait, isn't that movie about brothers, and they're fighting for control of the universe?" So that's kind of how he set it up.
He and his brother were at war, and his brother had all this power.
I think that Anthony understood that it was all bullshit.
But then, he was probably also in love with the world that he created.
[soft music playing.]
When she came back to New York, she never came out of the house.
I said, "If I don't see you in 15 minutes, I'm coming through that door.
" And she came down, but she couldn't look me in the eye.
She just came down and said, "I'm fine.
" And walked away.
We were running the restaurant pretty much for her.
Her presence was missing.
We were like, "What's going on?" "Where is she? Where's Sarma?" You know? "Where's our Sarmama? She's gone.
" You know? [Ilze.]
There was one time I could tell that Sarma was not okay.
I immediately called her.
I thought of calling 911, but I called Sarma.
Shane wouldn't let me talk to her.
He said that she was fine and needed rest.
That she was fine.
And please don't worry.
I insisted on talking to her, and I got to talk to her later.
But, um But that was one of the times that just was always in the back of my mind.
I thought, "This is just weird.
Who is this guy, you know, getting in between my sister and my family?" Anthony made one attempt to talk to my father the same way he made one attempt to meet with me privately.
I thought it was inappropriate, and I was nervous.
Something about him made me nervous.
And my father also declined, I believe, because he thought it was inappropriate.
He called me up and wanted me to give her money, you know, or pleading.
You know, this is like the third call on that subject.
And he said, "Well, you gotta help her.
We're family now.
" And I said, "What do you mean? I don't even know your last name.
" [Sarma.]
So my mother met Anthony for the first time I think it was Thanksgiving of 2012.
He was very charming and, um I think, laid it on thick with my mother, but she seemed to really like him.
He would ask me to send her money, and then he would get it from her.
So somehow he kind of roped her in as if, like, almost like a go-between.
He convinced her that, you know, he was doing this to help me.
And, "Oh, you got to, you know, you got to help me and help her.
" And so somehow pulled her into this whole thing.
So it's 2014, and I got a notice from the bank about a 90,000 dollar transfer to somewhere in New Hampshire.
And I knew that Sarma's mother lived there, but then I found out that Shane had been staying in New Hampshire.
And then it started to make me angry.
Its absence was going to make it hard for us to pay payroll and pay our bills.
I reached out to Sarma in an email, where I was a little bit more aggressive than I should have been, and said that I felt like she was stealing from us.
And her reply was that she didn't know what I was talking about.
I didn't know what I was talking about.
And it was her business, and she could do with the money what she pleased, which is true.
And I was fired.
Do you remember why you fired him? Um No, I don't remember.
I don't remember what the reason was.
Um I do remember running into Jim like a couple of months later.
We hugged, and I started crying, and I mean, I think Jim knew how I felt and that something was wrong.
And I don't know.
I don't know what, but either way, that was what happened.
It was sort of like looking back and saying it was so great back then, even though it wasn't very long ago.
It was like she was in a completely new phase of her life.
You know, people did try to intervene.
Any time someone tried to flag, like, "Hey, like, this is going on.
" Like, "What is going on?" They would be fired.
Um And at that point, it was kind of It felt like a losing game.
Honestly, at that time, uh Sarma was panicking.
[eerie music playing.]
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
[soft music playing.]
We drove my car up to Montreal, left it there, and flew from there to Paris.
And then we're bouncing around Europe for, I think, maybe, like, a couple of weeks.
But why go to Montreal instead of leaving from New York? That's what I'm saying.
I don't know.
You just asked me if he was on probation.
I was like, "I don't know, maybe that is why.
" I don't know.
But I would assume if he's not supposed to you know.
I don't know.
Maybe it's easier to drive into Montreal.
I have no idea why we left for Montreal.
We went from place to place in Europe, and sometimes back to where we had been, and here and there and all around.
He did have me meet somebody and try and get somebody that I knew to loan me money or put money into my business or something.
That didn't go very well.
There were plenty of times where he went out.
A lot of those cities we went to had casinos in them.
The money which he won at the casinos were spent on things which Unnecessary things.
Expensive trips, expensive clothes, watches, bracelets.
It all costs some money, and he was spending a lot of it and wasted it.
At this point, I'm alone in the office.
Sarma never shows up.
She wouldn't explain.
She would just say, "Hey, I'm in Europe.
" You know, "I'm gonna explain everything later.
" A lot of it was, "I'll explain later.
It'll all make sense later.
" [Jim.]
A friend of mine said that they weren't getting paid that week.
A couple weeks after that, they didn't get paid, and then they changed to monthly payroll.
Everyone's angry.
The mood at the restaurant is Everyone's upset.
Everyone wants to know what's going on.
You know, morale was incredibly low.
But she then emailed us.
It was kind of like a company-wide email, and she told all of us that all of our checks are gonna bounce.
So just a heads-up.
Don't spend that money because it's going to be pulled out of your account.
Um, and she's really sorry, but next week the checks will be in and all will be fine.
So even though Sarma is sending these emails reassuring us that everything's fine, all you get are glimpses of their lives on Instagram.
Sarma starts posting all these photos in Europe and traveling all around.
No one trusted her or Shane anymore.
I reached out to her in several text messages and emails and, like, "This is get This is it, Sarma.
" "Like, if you don't I can't hold this together anymore.
" You know, "You need to come in and pay these people.
" "You're gonna lose everything.
" "This is gonna happen.
They're all gonna leave.
" She sent an email back to the whole general staff, but it was just like It felt dissident.
It didn't even feel like her voice.
It was just saying like, "Hang in there," you know.
Like, it just didn't make any sense.
I'm not sure, but I may have initiated the walkout.
Just because I was kind of the leader of the kitchen.
I was trying to communicate with Sarma, and she wouldn't respond.
Um, and so I told her that if she didn't respond, then I couldn't come back.
When I finally got back on, my staff had not been paid and they had left.
The restaurant had closed down while I was away.
You said that you lost communication, then you found out that the restaurant had shut down.
But what did you think was gonna be happening during that time? - Like you're If you're running it.
- Oh.
No, it's not that.
I mean, there were plenty of times in the past where I would be I would go away for a while, and things would continue running, but obviously not when things were so precarious financially because all the money had been drained out.
Pure Food and Wine runs out of money, so they're forced to close for a short period.
To reopen, I had to pay the landlord a bunch of back rent.
And then also the staff were owed money.
So that all had to get paid back.
So I had to raise a bunch of money to do that.
How do I explain? "I'm married to this guy, and he's forced me to wire all this money.
" "I don't know where it is.
Can you give me money to reopen the restaurant?" Somehow I just was very vague about it.
I was like, "There's some issues, and the money's gone, and I need to reopen the restaurant," and whatever.
And that, you know, felt really sickening.
But my priority was to reopen the restaurant.
Sarma is spending all of her effort now just trying to reopen Pure Food and Wine.
And then they get new money somehow from investors.
It's pretty hard to raise money for a failed business that just closed.
I think it was close to 850,000 dollars that she raised.
I said to her, "Look, I'm really proud of you.
" The speed with which she raised investment money to reopen was probably unprecedented.
I ended up working for a consulting company, opening a restaurant around the corner from Pure Food and Wine.
And we took the entire kitchen staff from Pure Food and Wine and put them to work in our kitchen.
Just a couple of months later, Pure Food and Wine was opening back up again, and they all had their jobs back.
And they all went just as fast as they could.
There are a lot of supporters of Sarma.
Uh I think for good reason.
All of us still believed that it was just gonna turn out okay.
You know, I had a lot of faith and trust in her and a ten-year rapport with her.
But my interaction with her over the phone didn't feel good.
So I opted out.
I know that I made a certain amount of money when I was the bartender, and then when she asked me to be a manager, I wasn't willing to take a pay cut.
I didn't want more.
I just wanted the same amount.
She's mentioned something to me about it being about the money for me.
And I'm like, "Who am I speaking with on the phone that, you know, thinks" I feel like my blood, sweat, and tears went into the success of that restaurant.
It felt like super off.
These are very loyal employees who want this thing to keep going.
And also, remember that the reason it was failing was not because it wasn't making money.
It was making money.
The reason it was failing was because Strangis was draining money out of it.
Things were gonna be restructured, and all these new owners were all gonna take over running things financially.
I very much wanted to get myself off of the bank accounts, because then, if I was off, he couldn't take any more money from me.
Anthony said that that was screwing everything up.
I feel like he was always criticizing me for making a wrong move or doing something wrong.
He would say, "You were about to get everything you ever wanted, but you messed it up.
" That I was walking away from my utopia fantasy future that he was about to give me and, um So I was sort of in this weird place, not really knowing what to do.
Again, business was doing great.
Uh, it was very busy.
I was spending most of my time at the restaurant, every day.
I was taking the money.
I was depositing for the payroll.
I was doing it myself just because I didn't want anybody else to do it, even, like, Anthony, because I was afraid it would be stolen.
And I remember some of the employees thought that I was also part of that whole Anthony conspiracy.
I didn't trust Nazim, just because I vaguely knew what was going on, and I didn't really know his role in it.
And I remember being really confused as to why he was there, and why he was giving his opinion.
They wouldn't believe me that I was trying to help Sarma.
And at that time, she was 100% sure to save the company.
We got to come up with something and cut the strangers off the company.
Sarma and Anthony, they were fighting all the time.
They were living together, but they were living in separate rooms.
She was angry because she found out that he was talking to the investors through her email without her knowing it.
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
- [Anthony speaking.]
- [Sarma speaking.]
- [Sarma speaking.]
- [Anthony speaking.]
Sarma wrote to me about Shane saying, "He gets bent out of shape for all the wrong reasons.
" My reply, "That's between the two of you.
" "I protect Shane.
That means that I protect you.
" "I do like you.
" "I just said the other day I think of you like a sibling.
" And Sarma replied, "Would be nice to meet you and wipe out the feeling that I'm really just talking to Shane pretending to be some guy named Will.
" She said, "We've never talked when he's around.
" "Like, when I can watch him.
" "Just me being suspicious, which one could look at as a good trait.
" I replied, "Paranoia is a good trait if it's sharpened and applied, but too much is bad.
" Sarma says, "I've never had any proof that's not the case.
" I said, "You can never have proof, really.
" "If we talk and he's in the room, he could've had someone talk that one time for him.
" "And if we meet and you see my ID, he could've got someone that fit my description, and got an ID made just to appease you.
" "At some point, Sarma, you just need to trust him.
" "He loves you.
You can trust that or not.
" "At the end of the day, that's all it comes down to.
" [Sarma.]
What's strange to look back on is how much I would call him out for lying.
It got to the point where, you know, I was calling him out for Will being bullshit.
But that was sort of far along in the process where, yeah, so what if Will is bullshit? What am I gonna do now? There was no Will.
It was just another email account that he made.
So basically, there was no tech guy.
 The tech guy was Anthony.
You know, once he has control over all of her communications, not only does he know what she's thinking, but he can go through the world as her.
People would tell me that they were getting these emails that did not seem to be exactly in Sarma's voice, and they didn't understand what was going on.
But they were from her account, so they kind of went with it.
Over time, then it just became more obvious that he was monitoring me.
Sometimes he would email me from my own account, but he sort of continued this charade.
I found it maddening and frustrating.
Um, and it got to the point where I wasn't allowed to get mad.
If I got mad and pushed back, then that was like weakness.
I had to control my emotions and not get mad at him.
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
[Sarma speaking.]
[Anthony speaking.]
Somehow the farther along you get into it, the more, like, warped one's perspective gets.
Um And the more you wanna believe what he's saying because the alternative is too painful, you just end up sort of trapped.
We gotta get through this swamp.
The swamp is the situation.
Let's just get through it.
You can make the choice, right? You can choose to believe me.
Shortly after the restaurant reopened, she called me, and she said, "I've been in contact with this person from Boston who was introduced to me through people I know, and who I've checked out through people I know at Bain Capital, and his name is Michael Caledonia.
" "He wants to come out, come in, and buy out the business, and pay off all the investors, and take over the business.
" "But his biggest concern is you.
" She gave me his number and asked me to call him.
I call the guy.
I didn't suspect anything talking to the guy, except, you know, he was just a little manic on the phone.
He kept saying, "You know, I'm getting my money from Europe.
" "I can't disclose where I'm getting it.
" I said, "This is legal money, correct?" "I'm not interested in anybody bringing me three suitcases full of cash.
" He said, "No, it's completely legal.
But the people that invest with me want to maintain anonymity.
" So we set up a time to meet at a restaurant in New York for 5:30 at the bar.
I waited.
It's five-thirty, a quarter to six, six o'clock.
He's not there.
I called him on the cell.
No answer.
And about 15 minutes later, I get a call, and it's him.
And he says, "Oh my God.
" Like, you know, "I missed my plane.
" Well, okay.
You missed your plane.
I understand.
But you didn't miss your plane at six o'clock.
If you're coming from Boston, you missed your plane at four o'clock.
And then it happened a second time.
Then she calls me, and I'm in Miami.
And she says, "I was hoping to set up a meeting.
" "Michael Caledonia is going to be in Miami for a week.
" "And I'm gonna come too, so that way, like, you'll know that he's really gonna show up.
" [Sarma.]
Anthony was supposed to go with me to Miami.
And at the security line, he stepped away and said, "You're going on your own.
" And I was like, "What?" And he's like, "You're going, and you have to do this on your own," and, like, left.
So I flew to Miami next to an empty seat.
[suspenseful music playing.]
There were some emails back and forth between Sarma and myself, and also between Michael Caledonia and myself.
Michael Caledonia was staying at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is half a block from my restaurant, The Miami.
And I said, "Okay.
Yeah, I can get to the hotel at four o'clock.
" She calls me and says he missed his flight.
I said, "You should buy this guy a watch.
" I said, "Look, I'm not gonna be near the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, but I'll be on the beach.
" "And we can meet in the lobby of one of the hotels that I'm involved in.
" So we made up a time.
Sarma calls me and says, "He's not able to come.
Something came up.
" "But will you meet me?" I was on the beach anyway, so I said, "Okay.
You know what?" "I'll go.
" We had a coffee in the lobby of a hotel that I was doing a restaurant in.
She gave me a whole story about him.
She said to me, "I can't talk to these investors.
" "You really have to talk to them for me, and you have to talk some sense into them.
" And that, "Michael's gonna come in and take them out, but they can't ask for what they're asking for, because then it'll never happen.
" And so I agree to call those people.
I actually feel badly I called them in a way, but you know, at the time, I thought it was the right thing to do.
And by the way, at no time during this entire time did she ever say, "By the way, I'm married to this guy.
" If you're his wife, why are we going through all this? [interviewer.]
Well, who's Michael Caledonia? Yeah, that's when, like, he was using this name, Michael, because, I don't know why, but to me, it didn't seem like that big a deal because he was kind of, you know, he was gonna be buying everybody out.
For me, having to kind of go along that he's this person named Michael Like, what's the harm in that? Everybody's gonna get bought out.
You'd written to Jeffrey saying about Michael, and that you had vetted him through Bain Capital.
I think early on, you know, like, Anthony wanted me to, like, kind of assure him that Michael Caledo That this Michael person was legit.
So I think I said that like, "Yeah, he's legit.
" Um And you know, he wants to kind of buy everything, and that's fine with me.
Why did you feel like you couldn't be honest with Jeffrey at that time? I How What was I gonna say? [interviewer.]
Did it bother you that you were telling him there was a guy named Michael who Well, why would I thought Jeffrey was gonna get all his money back as well.
So everybody is supposed to get all their money back, and then some and whatever, and then it would all go from there.
I think bluffing with me is scary.
Okay? You know what I mean? It's hard to believe that she wasn't concerned about doing it.
She was family.
So the emotional feeling of being betrayed is very difficult when you've really put yourself out there to help somebody be successful.
[eerie music playing.]
When I left Miami, I never went back to New York.
I think he had me flying to Connecticut.
From there, we got in a car.
It was a car he had borrowed from a friend of his.
And that's when we left and didn't come back for a really long time.
At that point, I was still the one that was controlling the bank accounts.
We never got to the point where I was able to transfer over to any of these other people.
And Anthony was telling me to send them I think he was telling me to send them fifty grand, and I didn't wanna do it.
But he had access to all my stuff, so he was able to do it without me.
And he sort of got that last bit of money away.
The craziness had escalated to such a point that I don't know.
I just shut down.
And that was, I think, the strangest and most terrifying time, him just driving me away from everything.
Because I kind of knew it was Everything was sort of over at that point.
This is a text message kind of the day that I left Pure Food and Wine for the second time.
So I texted Sarma.
"I love you, and I really hope you're okay, but I have to be honest with you right now.
" "I came back to Pure in the hopes that we could get things back on track.
" "I had hoped that you respected me enough to communicate openly with me, but you aren't.
" "I was trying to get you on the phone to let you know that your staff is probably gonna walk out again.
" "I hoped that you and I could resolve this as a team, but we aren't.
" "I believed in this comeback and thought I'd be a key part of it, but I'm not able to do that with such limited visibility into the business.
" "If we can't solve these issues tonight, I'll need to end my time at Pure.
" "And I hope you understand.
" Um, and she didn't respond.
And so three days later, I wrote her, "Hey, I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking about you, and I'm worried about you, and I hope you're okay.
" And she did not respond.
[Anthony Caruana.]
One day, I was walking past the restaurant, and I see this crowd of people in front of the restaurant with signs, and they got tape everywhere, and her picture, and they're badmouthing her.
- Raw food? Raw food? - Raw deal! Raw deal! - Raw food? - Raw deal! - What do we want? - Our wages! - When do we want them? - Now! [Nazim.]
I went to the restaurant because I couldn't reach Sarma.
Anthony went ghost on me as well.
And I saw that employees' faces very angry at me.
I was like, "Listen, if, if I was the one who was stealing the money, why would I still sit here when it's, uh" "The ship is a Titanic under the, the, uh, ocean.
" "So why would I be here?" And one of the managers called the cops on me.
What do we want? Wages! [man.]
It was split 50-50.
We had one side that was just like, "We wanna just get our money.
" And the other side, you know, was, uh "You essentially, you know, fucked me.
And, you know, I wanna tarnish your name.
" Her name was everything, you know, and her brand was everything.
For me, it was more anger towards her for messing with other people's money, you know, like, the porter that doesn't get paid that much, you know, but he works his ass off and didn't get paid, and he has three kids at home.
You know, you have an entire family where, like, mother's working there, her daughter's working there.
Her husband's working there.
And suddenly they're all out of paychecks.
That, to me, was the, you know, hardest part of going through that.
It was seeing so many people who just were kind of like out of luck.
I felt so devastated for them.
And then I felt like, you know, "What the hell?" Like, "How can you do this again?" I knew a couple of the investors, and they said, "Oh, yeah.
She's not gonna walk away clean from this.
" "We're gonna go after her.
" It's hard to square that last sort of round of calls and meetings with investors and the sort of final extraction of money with the idea that Sarma was innocent, you know.
At this point, it does seem clear that, you know, Anthony's running a scam, and she should know better.
That's her having meetings with people to, you know, continue to trade on the former success of the restaurant to get money that's very unlikely to ever be paid back.
If she stayed, she would get convicted.
Money was taken out, didn't pay taxes.
It was a serious danger she was in.
And she decided to run away.
He just said, "Well, you know, we're just gonna go for a while," or something.
I don't even remember, but it was There was no There was no plan or discussion or anything at all.
It was just, um I don't really know what we were doing, but I certainly didn't have the perception that we were on the run.
Well, if you take the money out of the restaurant, leave the employees unpaid and physically leave, what does that mean? That means on the run.
Okay, so they're on the run.
[theme music playing.]

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