by Len Lear
Jennifer Burman, 49, who lived in Glenside before having children, then in Wyndmoor for 14 years and in Ambler for the last two years, had a life that was almost perfect for quite a few years. She and her husband, Matthew McManus, a successful loan broker and co-owner of the financial firm, Remington Financial Group, had a second home in Nantucket and two daughters, Eliza, now 15, and Ava, now 13.
Jennifer, who grew up in Potomac, MD, majored in psychology at the University of Colorado and earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Pennsylvania. She met McManus in 1991 in the ski town of Telluride, Colorado, and the couple were married in 1996 in Nantucket.
Life could not have been much better until 2012 when McManus, now 49, was indicted for his role in bilking almost 2,000 clients out of $26 million in a major fraud scheme. Federal prosecutors said the scheme involved clients who had hoped to secure loans for construction projects. Over the years, McManus had arranged financing for some of the largest projects in the area, prosecutors said.
On Feb. 19, 2014, McManus was found guilty after a trial. Prosecutors said that between 2005 and 2011, he and other defendants fraudulently induced hundreds of people to pay large fees based on false representations that Remington had lenders and/or investors ready to provide financing for the victims’ projects.
As of now, McManus has served three years in Allenwood Prison (75 miles north of Harrisburg) and has 10 more years to go. Jennifer, who “visits sometimes” at Allenwood, and Matt were divorced last August. Several co-defendants received lesser sentences after pleading guilty instead of choosing to go to trial.
Jennifer, who had to sell her house in Wyndmoor and move to Ambler with her daughters almost two years ago, has written a memoir about her experiences that was published last November entitled “A Widow’s Walk: Life Before and After My Husband Went to Jail.” She worked on the book for three years.
“It is about loneliness and single parenthood and hope for something real and honest,” Jennifer said in a recent interview. “This is about me being able to pour my anxieties and emotions into a cathartic authoring of a memoir. It is about my truth and authenticity … The book is about love and loss and my journey.”
Did Jennifer ever suspect anything illegal before her husband was indicted? “His partner, Andy Bogdanoff, was indicted in June of 2008, so yes,” she replied. “But Matt assured me that he wasn’t involved and wasn’t going to get into trouble. I believed him.”
How was Jennifer able to deal with Matthew’s indictment and imprisonment? “It is in the book,” she said, “but at first pretty stoically. I stood by his side. The trial was excruciating. I tried to be a good prison wife for awhile; then the s— hit the fan, all the debts, everything I had to deal with, I felt so betrayed. I was depressed and angry. It is still very hard. I loved him. We were best friends for 25 years.”
What prompted Jennifer to write the book? “I started during the trial to work out my feelings, and I couldn’t stop. It felt like it was the only thing that kept me going.”
Before the catastrophe that turned her life upside down, Jennifer had a career as a therapist and counselor in Jenkintown, working from 1995 to 2006 with couples, children and teenagers. Since her husband’s arrest, she has tried home decorating, selling men’s custom-made suits and some consulting work for a home improvement business.
“I am anxious about money all the time,” she said. “I was never a worrier! Never about money. I am now an expert at re-purposing — selling off most of my clothes, jewelry, etc. I need to find a career that I feel good about. I would love to keep writing. I have become more spiritual, and yoga and meditation help a lot. When I see my kids happy and well functioning , which they are now that we have settled a bit, that keeps me going.
“I feel that I must be doing something right. I also feel grateful that I am more ‘awake,’ so to speak. In touch with my feelings. I try to count my blessings. My book has given me purpose, and I am able to feel joy in many things that I had lost over the years. Simple things like live music, movies and hiking … My parents have been amazing. My friends, too.”
Jennifer was not sure at first whether her book would be useful to other people, “but now with all the feedback I am receiving, I see how helpful it is to share pain and reveal my difficult circumstances. Most people have a hard time with feeling they are alone or that they have to cover up all the bad stuff, pretend it’s not there. I think my book is relatable to anyone who is searching for authenticity instead of shame.”
A paperback version of “A Widow’s Walk … ” is now available on Amazon.com.