It´s a sunny and windy day in May, and the Brighton Beach penthouse apartment´s large windows overlook the beach at Upper New York Bay. If the location is scenic, the interior is pastoral: wallpaper borders feature forest scenes and bunny rabbits. Toys, meanwhile, are scattered everywhere. Elena uses the place as an escape for herself and her two young children now that her relationship with McMahan has soured.
McMahan met Elena Larionova in 2000 while he was on a family vacation aboard a European cruise ship. He was with his fourth wife, Cynthia, and the son, Joshua, from his third marriage. Elena was working in one of the ocean liner´s bars, and she says McMahan instantly took a liking to her, complimenting her specifically about her work ethic.
When the cruise was over, McMahan gave Elena his business card and told her to call on him for anything at all. A few months later, Elena´s mother needed surgery for circulatory problems (something Elena herself has inherited). She decided to contact McMahan.
The wealthy financier helped arrange for an operation and sent money for Elena to buy a computer so she could correspond with him via e-mail.
Elena says the still-married McMahan was soon writing her every day. He was also calling her from time zones around the globe. Before long, he asked if he could visit her in Odessa. After a second visit and hundreds more e-mailed love notes, McMahan proposed.
¨He was asking my mom on his knees,¨ she says.
But first, he had to get through the divorce with Cynthia, a legal fight that lasted more than a year.
During that time, however, Elena became pregnant. She came to London to live, unable to continue on to New York because the United States denies visas to unmarried Ukrainian women. After a difficult pregnancy, Elena gave birth to Vladimir, and then she waited for McMahan´s divorce to become final.
Bruce and Elena were married on July 27, 2002, at the Pelham estate. Vladimir was a year old.
Despite the hurdles they overcame to get married, Elena says, whatever romance that existed ended with their vows. By early 2004, the couple was estranged. McMahan, meanwhile, was spending a lot of time with Linda. She had inherited from her father Reiter´s disease, a genetic malady that affects the soft tissues, the eyes, and the heart. He brought Linda to Fisher Island to recover from a bad bout at the Argent Center, the resort he had built there. McMahan and Elena resided in unit 7925, and Linda stayed at number 7413, but Elena says that before long, McMahan openly relocated to Linda´s condo.
¨He moved in with her, his daughter,¨ Elena says. ¨Everybody there knew.¨
According to Linda´s testimony, it was the most intense time of a years-long illicit relationship with her father. Beyond simply having sex, she claimed that her father wanted to keep her away from her legal husband in Mississippi, Schutt, and that he wanted to formalize their affair. In June 2004, after buying Cartier wedding rings, McMahan and Linda flew to London and performed some kind of ceremony inside Westminster Abbey, took photos outside like any other newly married couple, and then began referring to each other as husband and wife in their e-mails. (The marriage wasn´t legal, but Elena says McMahan continues to wear his ring.)
Linda claimed in court testimony that Elena had hacked into her Yahoo e-mail account to find proof of the affair, but Elena says her stepdaughter got that wrong. She says that McMahan had left his computer on and that she happened upon the evidence. (As part of the court settlements, Linda signed a confidentiality agreement, and she has not spoken to New Times about this.)
¨I just clicked the button,¨ Elena says. ¨His e-mail was open. That was horrible. I was working on his computer. He left it on, and it was right there on the screen.
¨I knew something wasn´t right when he came back from London that time,¨ she says. ¨He loves to take pictures and show them around when he gets back, and this time, he didn´t show any pictures.¨
When McMahan filed to divorce Elena, she fought back by including the photos and e-mails with an affidavit swearing to her knowledge of her husband´s incestuous affair. But after Linda also defied McMahan, refusing to produce an affidavit of her own denying the affair, Elena finally relented. McMahan, she says, got her to swear under oath that she was mistaken about her accusations.