Gods & Mobsters

Eight years ago, a former Whitey Bulger henchman joined a well-to-do Beacon Hill church, where he quickly ingratiated himself with a group of influential congregants. But as allegations about the ex-con piled up, some members began to wonder: Just how reformed was Eddie MacKenzie?

IN THE PROCESS OF JOINING the church, MacKenzie had filled out a standard application, in which he revealed that he had done some very bad things in his past. It didn’t take long before everyone knew exactly what those things were. In the spring of 2003 a small New Hampshire publisher, Steerforth Press, published MacKenzie’s autobiography: Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob. The book won a favorable review from the New York Times and became a local bestseller, but it also revealed MacKenzie to have been a man with an unspeakably awful history. “I was as vicious as they come, a monster,” he writes of his past. “Violence was my drug.”

The story MacKenzie tells in Street Soldier is a classic rise-from-the-gutter tale — absent the rise. Born in 1958 to a 21-year-old unwed mother and her 16-year-old boyfriend, MacKenzie was one of seven children. His parents abandoned their lot when MacKenzie was four, and he grew up in a series of Massachusetts foster homes. Some foster parents neglected him. Others beat him, once so bad that he suffered a broken arm. A tutor sexually molested him at age nine. At age 12, police caught him driving a car stolen by his 13-year-old brother, Ronald. A year later, he and Ronald were runaways, bedding down on the couches or floors of friends, or surreptitiously sleeping on the porches of neighborhood homes. The pair supported themselves by shoplifting, burglary, and selling their stolen merchandise. MacKenzie dropped out of Jamaica Plain High School in the 10th grade.

At 17, he torched a Cadillac that belonged to a dance club owner and served a stint in the Charles Street Jail. Three years later, in 1978, he faced more jail time for robbing and assaulting a pair of drug dealers with a 12-gauge shotgun. MacKenzie managed to avoid a prison sentence by enlisting in the Army Reserve. He made it through boot camp but was discharged soon afterward, he says for medical reasons. He then joined the Marines, but left a short time later.

What MacKenzie lacked in education he made up for in ambition. After his stint in the service, he moved to South Boston, launched a kickboxing career, and opened a martial arts gym. Still, MacKenzie had a hard time scraping by. Now married with an infant daughter — the first of six children he fathered with three different women — he got by on a string of odd jobs: construction worker, bar manager, bouncer. But they didn’t pay enough, so he supplemented his income with the occasional break-in.

Then one day in January 1980, MacKenzie received two visitors: Whitey Bulger and Stephen “the Rifleman” Flemmi. The notorious mobsters had tracked MacKenzie down after learning he’d stolen a batch of collectible Hummel figurines from another gangster’s home. The figurines were worth $10,000, and Whitey wanted them back. By the time he got to MacKenzie, however, the ceramics had already been sold. Bulger asked MacKenzie for the name of his accomplice. When MacKenzie refused to give up his pal, Bulger smiled, apparently pleased that the 22-year-old was no snitch. “Down the road, I may need a favor,” the mobster said, according to MacKenzie’s autobiography.

  • lori

    great to read an article with some bite.
    keep the edge! great work.

  • lori

    great to read an article with some bite.
    keep the edge! great work.

  • Louise

    Finally something interesting to read in Boston Mag. There should be more stories like this. But why aren’t the authorities doing something about this guy????

  • Jesus

    If your from the Boston area, you would have read all of this about three years ago. I think what’s missing here is, The Attorney General, among local courts and Federal all investigated Mackenzie’s dealing with the Church and found no wrong doing.I don’t think it’s very fair to contiually crucify a Man because of a few disgurntled members. If you visit the Church on the Hill, you will see as thriving Church community. I’ll end with “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Nothing new here.

  • Morris

    I have had a lot of interaction with the church and Ed Mackenzie. Impressed with their commitment to being part of solutions to community issues. It is healthy to be suspect and apprehensive after reading material already written, so check it out. I know for a fact that the church has partnered with many organization that help the homeless, elderly, hungry etc.. & go unrecognized because they are sponsors. For many years now, Mr. macKenzie has lead the charge with the church on bringing our inner city youth ( I hear 250+ this year) to Six Flags). I am happy to have looked deeper into this church and forged a relationship that has helped my non-profit survive. Because of this article I will attend their Sunday Service this week to show I will not be dissuaded in regards to an awesome organization and a man in redemption!

  • Judy

    What a great article… too bad you didn’t check more into his life…he is still stealing from people..he might have some of the people fooled but anyone that knows the truth knows he is no good and

  • Judy

    Ed MacKenzie is a con man and he says he found God…what a joke all he found was a gold mine and he is bleeding this poor church…I feel so bad for all the old members who loved their church and had

  • Judy

    Why is he not in jail???

  • Thomas

    Once again, another bashing of a reformed Man. Will they ever give this guy a break? I mean, if there any proof, I would think the Attorney General, the federal Courts along with the states courts who all ruled Mackenzie did nothing wrong, would have have done something.If they only wrote the whole storry, they would see a man who has done so much for others and is respected by many, many people who look up to him and love him. Keep your head up Mr. Mackenzie,we believe in you.

  • Michael

    The problem here is,it’s a one sided story. Anyyone that has read the papers over the past few years should be very familiar with the fact that all the Courts including the Attorney General have all cleared Mackenzie, and found no wrong doin.The Man has been at the church for alomst a decade now, and done nonthing but good.How about somoone tell that side of the story? Sad to say,the media loves to exploit people and only write negative totally one sided, missleading stories. Try telling both sides and be accurate before you kick people around.

  • Judy

    For anybody who thinks Ed MacKenzie is a reformed man you have a lot to learn… He is a con man and he will never change… he sweet talks old people and then steals their money… if you know him do

  • Judy

    For anybody who thinks Ed MacKenzie is a reformed man you have a lot to learn… He is a con man and he will never change… he sweet talks old people and then steals their money… if you know him do

  • Judy

    For anybody who thinks Ed MacKenzie is a reformed man you have a lot to learn… He is a con man and he will never change… he sweet talks old people and then steals their money… if you know him do

  • lauren

    If you read this article you will notice that there is nothing new and everything that has been written was dismissed. why not write about ALL the letters from the congress and state about all the good Eddie Mac has done recently. He has brought countless youth programs together and has put faith back into all the teenagers who could be doing horrible things right now but are looking to god and doing the right thing BECAUSE of Eddie Mac. A person’s past can never change and will make them who they become. His past was a very bad one but his present and future are what counts and since joining the church he has done nothing but good. Try to tear the man down by bringing his past up, but not praising him for what he has overcome and all the good he has done. Who’s the bad one in this situation? Certainly NOT Eddie MacKenzie!!!

  • Ishka

    Eddie Mac will never change. Once a con man, always a con man. And he’s still conning people — including many of the people who have posted here. You will notice Eddie’s supporters are posting the same thing repeatedly just to jam up this board. That’s Eddie Mac’s style. He believes if you keep saying something over and over, it must be true. Don’t believe it — this guy is a con man through and through.

  • Judy

    Boy did you hit the nail right on the head with this story. Ed MacKenzie is a bad man and should be in jail..someday I will call the Boston Magazine and tell them my story and what he did to me…he prays on old and weak people so watch out all you trusting church people don’t let this man get to close too you or the next thing you know you’re bank account will be empty. Do not trust this man he is bad bad bad. No matter what he says he has NOT changed on bit he’s out for one thing and one thing only putting money in Ed MacKenzie’s pocket. Don’t let him fool you like he fooled me.

  • Maria

    Yes it is true, my husband Ronnie is the sexton of the Church. He was approached and offered this position by the then senior pastor and Board of Trustees. Yes it is true, Ronnie was offered the use of a church vehicle. Yes it is true, my husband is an ex-con. But it is also true that he is so much more…he is a husband that most women would wish for, a great father, a kind, compassionate, loving and hardworking man. He is the man that I have been in love with for 26 years.
    Yes, its true, I was asked to become a member of the Church by the then senior pastor on his first meeting with me. Yes its true, I was the first woman president voted in by the congregation (unanimously)), I was also the second woman president of the Church, a member of the Board of Trustees, and a member of the Church Council. I was and still am PROUD to respresent our Church in any capacity that I can. I love my family, I love my Church. I love Everybody.

  • Judy

    I’m glad to see you people are still keeping an eye on Edward J. MacKenzie and glad to see you’re telling it like it is. Keep up the good work we need more stories like this. Please keep us updated on MacKenzie’s court dates. Once a con man always a con man, no matter what he says he will never change. His brother and sister-in-law sound like they are good people but Ed himself and a no good scam artist and like I said he will never change.

  • David

    Obviously, sales have been way down for Boston magazine, so they come up with this story. I mean their yearly subscrition is $9.95, lmao. I wonder whose past they will find to sell next months issue? The Pope and the Mafia? lol. Mackenzie might have been a bad guy, but don’t we all have skeletons in our closet? People are so quick to believe reporters versions, why don’t all you nay sayers, drop by the Church on the Hill for sunday service, you might just see a thriving congregation full of faith, hope, and as in the Corinthians, the most important of the three, LOVE.

  • Bob

    All you church members who think Mackenzie is a reformed man should first demand an accounting of where your church money is being spent and who is spending it. An audit is in order. If you don’t do that, then don’t be surprised when the church and its apartment building is sold out from under you. And guess where that money will go? Into the pockets of a “reformed” con-man and liar.

  • Judy

    Why are the church members letting this con man get away with this and why is he not in jail????

  • Mary

    For all you uniformend haters, the for the past 7 years the Church has given the Attorney General it’s fully audited financials, where as it’s a puiblic charity and falls under the AG’s guidlines.Mackenzie has no access to church accounts, he was the treaususer for only one month in 2003, until he voluntarily stepped down. There has been an inedependent audit every year. Not one impropriety, not one wrong doing by Mackenzie of anyone for that matter. That’s why he is not in jail.Why don’t you just drop by the church on any weekday or for for a sunday service and you will see the same members that have been there for decades, minus a few haters. Oh and Rev Ellis paying for his wifes cancer medical bills,not true, now that he’s not involved with the church?The church pays for all his and his wifes medical bills as part of his retirement, so that’s bull. I could go on and on, but the facts are simple, and if you think mackenzie is doing wrong simply drop by and look at the books, because unlike the past people in charge, it’s always been an open book policy at the church.I don’t…

  • Judy

    Ed McKenzie is nothing but a con guy and will never change, he should be in jail, he thinks just because he says he has changed everyone should believe him. HA believe me he has NOT changed one bit and he knows it and so does God. McKenzie’s day will come.

  • T

    I know this gentleman. He is a kind man and will do anything to help someone at anytime of day! You obviously don’t know him! Attend the church some Sunday. He is a very respectable man and every one is fond of him. Stop rehashing over the past! He has reformed! You obviously have not done your job lately! Do some research in Boston. Let’s hear something positive and encouraging for a change!! Why always the negative-

  • Judy

    Why always the negative you ask..you’re not the one he hurt by stealing all their money and never once did he say he was sorry and believe me he is still stealing you better watch your bank account and the bank account of the church..Ed MacKenzie and a con man and he will never change. He ruined my life and he doesn’t even care. So my friend don’t tell me to go to church and listen to this creep tell more lies like he told me. Believe me he is NO GOOD.

  • K

    So what about the elderly lady he swindled? Does that not count for anything? MacKenzie is a sleaze.

  • fred

    is thomas kennedy from everett-he stole from his own family and has been a criminal/
    for 30 years.