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?
MacKenzie says that all actions he took while treasurer were both legitimate and sanctioned by Ellis. “I have never written a check or used the debit card without authorization,” he later said in an affidavit. It was Kennedy, he claimed, who had written church checks to his own family members. Later, in a brief interview with Boston, MacKenzie added, “Anyone who has done anything in this church has had Steve Ellis’s approval.”
Ellis told Boston in 2008 that he never approved any improper transactions. Some church members suspect otherwise. “Steve knew Eddie was taking money but he did nothing about it,” one church insider speculates. “Eddie was buying fancy suits, taking people out to eat, and buying jewelry for himself and his girlfriends…. He would take his kids to Disney World with church money and say it was a church trip. He was living the high life all on church money. There was no way Steve didn’t know.”
Some churchgoers believe the pastor was either charmed or threatened by his former protégé. MacKenzie was notorious for sitting next to congregants at Sunday service whom he felt had wronged him. “I have seen [MacKenzie] exhibit outbursts of violent behavior…when things have not gone his way,” said church member Louis Partin in an affidavit filed in court. “I have seen him intimidate members into voting his way.”
As more of his friends joined the congregation, MacKenzie’s power grew. In fact, by 2004 many trustees on the church’s board were MacKenzie supporters.
Around this time, the board made a series of questionable financial decisions, including changing the bylaws to make it easier to sell church property and removing a ban on church members profiting from any sale.
Shortly after these changes were made, MacKenzie and Thomas Kennedy allegedly approached Michael Perry, a Wellesley developer, about buying part of the 18-story apartment building that sits atop the church’s chapel.According to a sworn affidavit by Perry, MacKenzie demanded the developer give him $195,000 in cash and checks, including payment for a Mercedes, as a deposit on the $30 million deal.
All told, in the months following their April 2004 meeting, Perry’s company would pay more than $500,000 in an effort to purchase the property (according to a sworn affidavit by Perry and a lawsuit his company brought against MacKenzie, Kennedy, and the church). Most of these payments were tagged as “additional deposits” on the complex, the lawsuit claims, even though Perry never secured title to the building.
In his own affidavit filed as part of the case, MacKenzie not only denies Perry’s allegations, he denies knowing the man. In a brief interview with Boston, he goes even further: “I’ll deny everything you write.”