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?
BY 2008 STEVE ELLIS no longer counted himself among those who supported MacKenzie. That September Ellis and other church members filed another civil racketeering lawsuit, this one containing even more serious allegations than the complaint filed by the church’s parent organization four years earlier. In the complaint, as originally filed, Ellis and his brother Rex alleged that MacKenzie received cash payments from plumbing contractors and shared in commissions from the church’s investment annuities. They also claimed that MacKenzie stole precious church artifacts, books, and artwork, including more than 800 antique books and priceless Bibles, Helen Keller autographs, and letters from John Quincy Adams. Six months after filing the complaint, however, Ellis and his brother Rex would drop the case and issue a remarkably broad retraction. They took back the allegations and “any and all statements we have made concerning purported wrongdoing” in the lawsuit and otherwise. (Six weeks before the retraction, Rex had filed for bankruptcy.)
As for MacKenzie, he always denied stealing any of the books, Bibles, or other church artifacts. Instead, he blamed the theft on Mark Palluccio, who MacKenzie alleges was fired from his position as Ellis’s driver. However, in an affidavit filed in connection with a separate lawsuit, Palluccio claims MacKenzie admitted stealing the artifacts and even boasted that he had a $100,000 offer on a marble bust. To back his claim, Palluccio produced photographs of the stolen items he said were taken during a visit to MacKenzie’s house.
By late 2008, Ellis and his ilk, fed up with MacKenzie and his, took matters into their own hands. Congregants voted to oust MacKenzie and the leadership that backed him. Locks were changed on the church doors and apartment building, effectively blocking MacKenzie from entering the property. Shortly afterward, Reverend Ellis, accompanied by police, barred the ousted members fromattending a Sunday service.
Within days, the exiled congregants asked the court to intervene. While they awaited a decision, the Ellis faction seized a church-owned vehicle, opened a new bank account, and changed corporate records filed with the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, Rex Ellis, the reverend’s brother, sent a letter informing tenants in the church-owned apartments that rent was no longer to be paid to the property management company. Instead, checks were to be dropped off at a box in the building’s lobby. Some $30,000 in checks were eventually collected by Rex and later put into a bank account that could not be accessed by MacKenzie or the ousted trustees. This was done, Rex told Boston in 2008, to keep the money out of MacKenzie’s hands.
In response, MacKenzie’s faction asked the Massachusetts Superior Court to intervene to allow them the ability to worship where they wanted, namely back at the Church on the Hill. On September 19, 2008, a judge granted a temporary injunction reinstating MacKenzie and the ousted board members. “People have a right to go to their church for their Sunday church services,” the judge ruled.