Daddy's Girl

A local millionaire learns a valuable lesson: Don't sleep with your daughter and then sue her

Soll, who has no attachment to the McMahan litigation, has treated a half-dozen patients who had sexual intercourse with a close blood relative who had been separated early in life. An adoptee himself, Soll mediates group therapy sessions where hundreds of participants have talked openly about their physical desires for relatives they've recently reunited with.

"The dad is supposed to be the adult," Soll says. "He should have been responsible enough to say, well, wait. She got taken by something she had no awareness of."

Bruce seemed to be aware of the severity of their transgression.

Bruce and Linda in Paris in an undated photo
Bruce and Linda in Paris in an undated photo
The photo of Bruce's hand on Linda's, with their wedding 
rings, that they titled "Says it ALL"
The photo of Bruce's hand on Linda's, with their wedding rings, that they titled "Says it ALL"

"Such passions lead men straight to Hell," he wrote in an e-mail to Linda titled "Midnight Musings" that he sent just after midnight August 15, 1998.

Despite its dramatic location, however, Bruce and Linda's "wedding" in London wasn't legal. Each was married to another person at the time.

Linda's court filings claim that after the ceremony, Bruce wanted Sargent Schutt to play a diminished role in her life. He told Linda he'd start paying her "the big bucks" only if she could convince Schutt to sign a postnuptial agreement, which he did reluctantly.

"May you have all the money in the entire world to yourself," Schutt penned in a handwritten note he attached to the document. "Too bad love is earned, not bought."

Bruce was thrilled.

"Good girl!" he wrote to Linda in an e-mail dated June 29, 2004, which was read into the record at Linda's deposition. "This will change how your life can be lived; thank God. Someday you will understand how truly important that document is to you.

"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, Bruce 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 Bruce went out in public, the people around them determined the pair's behavior. 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 she knew of an illicit relationship between Bruce 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 Bruce 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, Bruce 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 Bruce 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 Bruce 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 Bruce'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 Bruce. In her August sworn statement, Linda says Bruce 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: Bruce sued Linda through one of his firms, claiming she had 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 Bruce 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.

Bruce 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 that investigators had made while he had her under surveillance.

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