Sarma Melngailis had a steamy affair with her married lawyer
Sarma Melngailis, the so-called “Vegan Bernie Madoff,” and Jeffrey Lichtman, the renowned defense lawyer now repping El Chapo, have taken attorney-client privilege to a whole new level.
The stunning restaurateur was arrested in May 2016for stealing nearly $2 million from her celeb-favorite Gramercy Park eatery, Pure Food and Wine. Lichtman, while working for Mexican druglord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, took on Melngailis’ case in February 2017.
The Post was provided hundreds of X-rated text messages between Melngailis, 46, and Lichtman, 53, spanning from February 2017 to May 2018. Other emails referenced relationships with, among others, comedian Louis C.K.
While engaged in a sexual relationship with her high-powered attorney, Melngailis was given VIP legal service and scored a plea bargain that shaved more than 14 years off her sentence.
On May 10, 2017, she pleaded guilty to charges of grand larceny, criminal tax fraud and a scheme to defraud and was sentenced to only four months in prison.
Two days later, Lichtman — who is married and has twin teenage boys — texted his client an indecent proposal.
“Do you want to belong to me? Will it be ok if some days I just use your body so that I can [orgasm]?” he wrote.
Melngailis, a well-known vegan and raw-food advocate, was famously caught after 10 months on the lam with her then-husband and co-conspirator, Anthony Strangis, after Strangis ordered a decidedly un-vegan Dominos pizza and wings to their $99-a-night Tennessee hotel.
The duo blew the stolen dough on Strangis’ gambling, Rolexes and European vacations.
Lichtman stepped in to replace Melngailis’ previous attorneys, Sheila Tendy and César de Castro, in February 2017.
It didn’t take long before exchanges between the lawyer, who has repped John “Junior” Gotti, and his celeb-chef client turned sexual.
On March 18, 2017, Lichtman texted Melngailis: “You do look so pretty in that pic I would like to foul you. Is it bad that I’m thinking some disgusting thoughts about you?”
Melngailis replied: “Is it bad that Iʼm glad youʼre thinking them?”
Nine days later, Lichtman told his client, “We need to do this soon,” asking, “Would you still be able to stand me as your lawyer if I foul you?”
“I think so,” Melngailis answered.
“Let’s wait until after then,” Lichtman wrote.
“I’m not opposed to before,” the former restaurateur said.
Apparently, neither could wait until after the plea deal. On May 2, eight days before her court appearance, Lichtman texted Melngailis rave reviews of a recent romp.
“I loved being in you,” he wrote.
Melngailis replied, “And see how you lucked out: I didn’t go all praying mantis and kill and eat you after. For that would have only been self-defeating.”
Three days later, Lichtman still couldn’t keep it in his pants.
“You felt perfect. Like it fit perfectly. Do you want that again,” he wrote.
“Yes I do,” Melngailis answered.
On May 9, the day before Melngailis was due to appear in court, the dirty texts continued, with Lichtman telling his client that he would like to get it on after she takes her nightly Ambien.
“I would be in favor of that,” Melngailis said. “They make me kind of rag dollish.”
“Perfect,” the lusty lawyer replied.
Even as they stood in the Brooklyn courtroom and Melngailis’ future on Rikers Island was sealed, the two were fantasizing about each other.
“It was crazy. During the plea I was kind of swooning for you. Just wanted to touch you a little even,” Lichtman wrote two days later.
“I love when you say stuff like that. As it’s often hard to tell behind your surly facade. That’s romantic,” she wrote back.
“I wanted you to feel my shoulder rubbing up against yours … I need to eat you,” Lichtman added for extra flourish.
In one May exchange, Melngailis reassures Lichtman she hasn’t told anyone about their dalliance.
“I expected you to keep this between us,” he responded. “Look. You know how important you are to me.”
The New York State Bar Association’s code of professional responsibility says a lawyer cannot “require or demand sexual relations with a client or third party incident to … any professional representation,” or “employ coercion, intimidation, or undue influence in entering into sexual relations with a client.”
“The idea that someone would have a sexual relationship with a client is absurd,” said one New York City criminal-defense attorney.
“I think there are some major ethical issues. It’s taking advantage of clients.”
According to Bruce Green, a Fordham Law professor specializing in legal ethics and professional responsibility, regardless of whether Lichtman “coerced” Melngailis, one thing is for sure: His behavior was unprofessional.
“It’s not good to mix sex with legal representation,” Green said.
Melngailis might disagree. Lichtman readily admitted his affection for her made him focus more on her case.
On March 25, 2017, Lichtman, who charged the scammer a $50,000 retainer, told her that he was “in touch 24 hours a day and spending more time on your case than on the one where I got paid a million dollars.”
And the smitten lawyer couldn’t stop from bragging to her about getting million-dollar settlements in sexual-harassment cases involving consensual sex.
“The past year I’ve gotten three insanely high settlements for consensual sex as sexual harassment,” he texted on May 4, 2017. “I think I may be some kind of savant. I get a case. And then I ask a set of lawyers who only do this kind of work what is the best settlement I could hope for. And then I triple it.”
“I made $2.9 million for a 24 year old girl who had a consensual sexual relationship with her boss,” he boasted the next day.
He also spilled about other clients, including El Chapo.
In one March 16, 2017, text, Lichtman asks her if it’s “bad that I’m hiring a belly dancer to be Chapo’s daily visitor? . . . he has no pretty women visiting him. I feel bad.”
Lucky for Lichtman, he had a pretty woman of his own. And he made his sexual preferences known.
During a conversation on May 23, 2017, regarding his desire to orgasm while inside of Melngailis — a recurring theme — she said she thought it was unlikely she would get pregnant that week.
Although, she added, if she did, the baby “would probably exit my womb driving a mini Porsche and yelling at everyone in the delivery room.”
Only after the two did the deed did Melngailis bother to ask Lichtman if he was married.
“Separated since December,” he replied in a May 19, 2017, text.
Reached for comment, Lichtman’s wife said that she knew nothing of the affair and that she and her husband had never separated.
Lichtman told The Post: “This is a deeply personal matter that I’m going to try to deal with privately. My life and behavior have not always been perfect — as I think we can all say — but I’m proud of my legal work in this case and on behalf of all the clients I’ve represented for the past 28 years. My personal feelings have never impacted my professional work or the results that I have achieved.”
Melngailis did not respond to requests for comment.
The vegan tried her best to keep her dirty talk, if not clean, at least health-conscious, despite admitting she ate chicken twice a week while at Rikers in 2016 following her arrest.
In one May 16, 2017, text, she suggests they have sex “on top of the big communal table at Le Pain Quotidien.”
And when Lichtman asked on May 7, 2017, if she wanted to “taste” him, the vegetable lover replied diplomatically.
“Penciling in ‘Jeffrey’s c–k’ in my calendar for Thursday pm. I do. If you eat lots of fruit and pineapple and all vegan it tastes good.”