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?
She rejected the proposals, but MacKenzie soon made another offer: to find her son. Charles “Chip” McCain had mysteriously disappeared in 1991 while boating in the Caribbean. Though most people suspected he had fallen victim to an accident, von Bober harbored suspicions that McCain had been abducted. MacKenzie, she said, claimed he’d been a special-forces commando while in the Army, and offered to help. All he needed was roughly $150,000 to fund a search-and-rescue mission. Von Bober gave him the money, but soon after, MacKenzie was back, empty-handed. Von Bober said he told her that the mission had failed, and that two of his fellow rescuers had been killed.
A short time after that, von Bober’s 4.5-carat diamond ring disappeared from her apartment, she told the Globe. After von Bober informed MacKenzie about the missing ring, he promised to use his contacts to find it. He did. When von Bober went to a jewelry appraiser, however, she was told that the diamond had been replaced. The ring, once valued at more than $200,000, was now worthless. She went to the police.
As the case neared its 2004 trial date, MacKenzie hashed out a plea agreement with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office that once again allowed him to avoid jail time, though he did agree to pay von Bober $82,000 (she died in 2007).
When Church on the Hill members asked MacKenzie about the incident, he reportedly shrugged off their concerns, saying the allegations were merely the sexual fantasies of an aging woman.
DESPITE HIS LEGAL TROUBLES, MacKenzie proved himself to be a capable recruiter of new congregants. Within mere months of joining, he had persuaded roughly 20 other people to become members, a huge boost to a church that had been in decline for decades.
Some of those newcomers were MacKenzie’s own family members. His brother Ronald, an ex-con, later became the church’s janitor — a job for which he was given use of one of several church-owned vehicles. Ronald’s wife also joined, and became church president as well as a member of its board of trustees.
But the influx of newcomers caused resentment among some longtime members, who suspected the possibility of college scholarships was the real reason for their interest. “Many of the old-timers just stopped going to church because of what was going on,” said one elderly congregant.
But such feelings didn’t dim MacKenzie’s star in the eyes of Ellis, and he quickly moved up the ranks. In 2004, less than two years after coming to the church, MacKenzie became treasurer of Bostonview Corporation, the church’s real estate arm. The position gave him a pivotal role in the church’s financial decisions. Trouble soon followed. According to an affidavit by Thomas Kennedy later filed in court, MacKenzie bragged about forging checks but “that there was nothing else that they could get him on.” (MacKenzie denies the allegation.)