By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
It was a sunny and windy day in May, with the Brighton Beach penthouse apartment's large windows overlooking the beach at Upper New York Bay. If the location was scenic, the interior was pastoral: Wallpaper borders featured forest scenes and bunny rabbits. Toys, meanwhile, were 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 from his third marriage, Joshua. 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 purchase a computer so that 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 for 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, she says, the U.S. 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, two weeks after she arrived in New York. Vladimir was a year old.
Despite the hurdles they had to overcome to get married, Elena says that whatever romance had existed ended with their vows.
"The day we got home, he lost interest in me," she says. "I became his dog. He said, 'If you don't keep your mouth shut, I will take Vladimir.' Then I got pregnant with Elizabeth."
By early 2004, the couple had become increasingly estranged; McMahan, meanwhile, was spending a lot of time with his grown daughter, Linda. She had inherited Reiter's Disease from her father, a genetic malady that affects the soft tissues, eyes, and heart. He brought Linda to Fisher Island to recover from a bad bout of the disease at the Argent Center, the resort he had built there. McMahan and Elena resided in unit
7925, and Linda stayed at
7413, but Elena says that before long, McMahan openly relocated to Linda's condo.
"He moved in with herhis 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 Schutt, her legal husband in Mississippi, and wanted to formalize their affair. In June 2004, after purchasing Cartier wedding rings, Bruce and Linda flew to London and had some kind of ceremony performed 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, in court testimony, claimed 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 McMahan had left his computer on, and she happened upon the evidence. (As part of the court settlements, Linda signed a confidentiality agreement; she has not spoken to the Voice for this or the previous story.)
"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 continues. "He loves to take pictures and show them around when he gets back, and this time he didn't show any pictures."
McMahan filed to divorce Elena, and she fought back by including the photos and e-mails with an affidavit swearing to her knowledge of her husband's incestuous affair (the affidavit is sealed now, but referred to in other court documents). But after Linda also defied McMahan, refusing to produce an affidavit of her own denying the affair, Elena relented when McMahan asked her to swear under oath that she was mistaken about her accusations.
She says now that she only signed the second statement because McMahan told her it was the only way he would continue to help her get her green card, for which he was her sponsor. Without a green card, Elena could have been sent back to the Ukraine, but she likely could not have taken their children because they are U.S. citizens.