Daddy's Girl

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"Lots of Opus needed," he added.

By her own admission in one of several sworn statements she filed during the litigation, Linda's job as vice president of marketing entailed little more than being a companion to her father.

"My fancy title with Argent is not an accurate representation of my employment," she testified. "My salary was only $12,000 per year, whereas most of my resources were in the form of personal gifts from my father."

The chief accounting officer for McMahan Securities and Argent Funds Group, Joseph C. Dwyer, sent Linda tax statements detailing her father's largess. From 2004 to 2005, McMahan spent $649,290.55 on gifts for Linda, including $228,727.23 on cars, $25,209.31 in cash wire transfers, and $37,000 in legal bills.

When she and McMahan went out in public, how they acted depended upon who was around. To some, they were father and daughter; to others, they were a married couple.

One friend, Palm Beach interior designer Hilda Flack, knew them in both capacities, according to court filings. Flack designed the interior at McMahan's Argent Center and was planning a business with Linda — the McMahan-Flack Design Center. But Flack, reached at her Palm Beach Gardens design center, denies that she knew of an illicit relationship between McMahan and Linda.

"She was there when we were decorating with her father," Flack says. "She was his daughter, obviously. Mr. McMahan was a gentleman and treated everyone accordingly."

In an affidavit, Linda said Flack was in the room at the Argent Center when McMahan smashed several computer hard drives containing evidence of their incestuous relationship and their Westminster Abbey wedding.

Flack dismisses Linda's claims.

"I never heard of such a preposterous thing," Flack says of the wedding.

Before he flew to London in 2004 to marry his daughter, McMahan had separated from his fifth wife, Elena. Later that year, he filed for divorce.

In January 2005, Elena filed an affidavit in the divorce case reportedly accusing McMahan of having an incestuous relationship with Linda (the affidavit is under seal but referred to in other court papers). Linda alleged in court records that Elena learned of the affair when she hacked into Linda's Yahoo e-mail account and retrieved the Westminster Abbey photos.

In court papers, Linda says that McMahan showed her Elena's affidavit and asked her to make a sworn statement of her own, denying their incestuous relationship. When she refused, their relationship began to deteriorate.

"This was a difficult if not unbearable time of my life as I continued to be abused and subservient to McMahan's sexual demands while at the same time knowing that I had lost any semblance of my marriage with Sargent," Linda said in a sworn statement this past August.

In July 2005, Linda refused to continue sleeping with McMahan. In her August sworn statement, Linda says McMahan responded to the breakup by saying on the telephone: "I am going to preemptively destroy you. If you want to know how I am going to do it, meet me for lunch."

Two months later, a legal conflagration was sparked that spread like wildfire: McMahan sued Linda through one of his firms, claiming that she'd stolen company computers and trade secrets. Linda then sued her father for the income she would have made as his employee. Her estranged husband, Schutt, sued McMahan in Mississippi, where it's still legal for one man to sue another for ruining his marriage. McMahan then filed another suit against the two of them, as well as Schutt's father, accusing them all of conspiring to extort $10 million from him.

McMahan has a long history of litigating his breakups, both personal and financial. In his divorce from Melinda Ewell, for example, he took the case to New York's appellate court, challenging an order compelling him to turn over tapes and files investigators had made while he had her under surveillance.

Ewell describes him as an egomaniac who lives his life in a series of ongoing sagas. The drama he creates feeds his ego and shapes the story of his life, she says.

"When you live with someone like that, it's not fun when you challenge them," she said.

When Ewell made allegations in her divorce that McMahan had treated her cruelly, McMahan countersued and accused Ewell of engaging in affairs and "attempting to seduce mutual friends and associates," according to an appellate opinion in the case. Ewell tells New Times that one of those men was billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who has been much in the news lately for allegedly hiring underaged women to strip topless and massage him at his Palm Beach mansion. At the time, in the early 1980s, McMahan and Epstein worked together at Bear Stearns in New York. Epstein didn't return a request for comment.

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Kelly Cramer