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The next Boston crime book: How a Bulger enforcer found religion and looted a church

A federal grand jury has indicted a former Whitey Bulger lieutenant on charges he took control of a small Beacon Hill church and then looted the income from an apartment building it owns for a decade.

Edward MacKenzie was arraigned in US District Court in Boston this week on a variety of racketeering, money laundering, wire fraud and extortion charges, all related to his role as director of operations of the Boston Society of the New Jerusalem, which owns the Swedenborgian Church and the 18-story apartment building atop it on Bowdoin Street, across from the State House.

The feds charge that not only did Edward MacKenzie just outright steal money from the church and the management company that ran the apartments, he directed church business to contractor pals - from whom he demanded kickbacks, by threatening them with violence in some cases. He got the church to buy cars for himself and three other people, used church money to hire somebody to maintain the aquarium in his Weymouth home - from whom he extracted kickbacks - and had the church pay for college tuition for the children of a friend of his, the indictment alleges.

In an indictment charging him with racketeering and bank fraud, prosecutors say MacKenzie also used some of the tricks he described in his 2004 book about being a Bulger enforcer - when one contractor only gave him a $3,000 kickback instead of the $6,000 he'd promised:

MACKENZIE swore at Carpenter #2, banged on the hood of Carpenter #2's car, and put Carpenter #2 in fear for his physical safety. At that point, Carpenter #2 gave MACKENZIE an additional $3,000 in cash.

In another case, a flooring company hired by the church under MacKenzie's direction gave him roughly $117,000 of the $356,000 it was paid over five years for flooring and carpet work in the apartment building.

According to the indictment, MacKenzie cooked up a scheme to take over the church in 2002. Although the church has few members these days, the 150 apartments built above it provide a large and steady stream of income - most of the units now rent for $2,000 a month.

The indictment describes how MacKenzie and associate Thomas J. Kennedy took control of the church in 2003, by signing up friend and family members as new members, who then voted in an annual members meeting to put MacKenzie and Kennedy in charge of the church. They then quickly purged the church leadership of trustees and other officials "perceived as obstacles" and withdrew the church from the parent organization of Swedenborgian churchs in the US. Oh, and the new members then named MacKenzie as "director of operations," a post in which he started out with an annual salary of $100,000 - a figure that grew to $200,000 over the years.

The indictment alleges MacKenzie and Kennedy laundered some donations and checks meant for either the church or the management companies through bogus companies - one named Fillabuster Catering Trust, which had nothing at all to do with the Fill-A-Buster restaurant next door to the church.

Innocent, etc.

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Comments

You can't make this stuff up. Amazing.

And it took 8 years? This situation must have been well known by law enforcement and prosecutors for quite some time. At least you'd think.

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This was written up a few years ago. Law enforcement can't just arrest church management because they don't like the way money is being spent.

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He wasn't indicted for stuffing the church board with his family or hiring friends to do carpeting, he was indicted for the kickbacks he allegedly was getting from those companies.

Also probably doesn't help his case that the apartments are, technically, managed by a company rather than the church. Granted, one that is supposed to keep the church afloat, but still.

Plus, threatening to do bad things to people who didn't pay him the full kickback they'd promised to (allegedly, of course). I'm not a legal scholar, but I suspect that's not covered by the Establishment Clause.

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I don't think they announced the kickbacks and threats in the church bulletin. It does take time and evidence to make a case. This site reports police searches being thrown out all the time. Then, if they don't do something, they get criticized.

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check out this scumbags book... first page he's bragging about how his criminal record is 9 pages long.. why are there so many ignorant people in this world?

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Classic infiltration and takeover of a legit business by the mob for a pump and dump.

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This is shameful. This wrongdoing has been very well known for a long time. What has the Attorney General done? Anything?

This crook moved into the church in 2002-03; in 2004, congregants sued to try to get him out. The case was mostly dismissed because in Massachusetts, only the AG can bring claims for mismanagement and misappropriation of charitable assets. (See this case.)

Following that 2004 lawsuit, the AG had this church under supervision for three years -- from 2004 to 2007. (See the Boston mag article linked above.) The AG's office at One Ashburton Place is less than a hundred yards from this church. How did it happen that no further action was taken until the US Attorney and the FBI got involved?

Massachusetts is the home to some of the most important and well-known charities in the country, and the world: Harvard University, MGH, the BSO, the MFA, and the list goes on and on. The Public Charities division of the AG's office has primary responsibility for the oversight of those institutions -- but couldn't even stop an outright theft happening quite literally right under their noses. There has been a colossal management failure here. Today it's a little church no one has heard of (which is bad enough), and tomorrow it will be some major civic institution that goes awry. Someone ought to be held accountable.

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why the Public Charities division of the AG's Office would be responsible for oversight of this organization, considering right in the FAQ on the AG's website there is this:

Q: Are any charitable organizations exempt from the filing requirements?

A: The two categories of charitable organizations exempted by statute from registering and filing with the Division are:

1. religious organizations

and it seems pretty clear that since this is a well-established CHURCH it would be exempt from filing with the AG and would fall outside of their oversight.

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Churches, synagogues, temples, and other religious organizations don't have to register with the AG and don't have to fill out annual forms. But the AG still has oversight power over those organizations. Only the AG has standing to pursue misappropriated funds. (See the case I linked.) In this case, the AG supervised this church's finances from 2004-2007 pursuant to a consent decree. (See the article I linked.)

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Churches are not required to register and file annual financial reports with the Charities Division, but that doesn't change the fact that they are still charities. Mismanagement of funds by a church would most definitely fall within the Division's purview. It is much harder to investigate, however, without those financial reports.

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What one motivated old wiseguy can do with a rep and a couple of kids in plastic sweat suits?

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Amazing. A case of embezzlement, about $30k, occurred in that church in the 40's. Lawyer was disbarred, long-time member & treasurer. I have one little newspaper clipping on this. They were our neighbors.

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30 years behind bars.......

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Hi, I haven't heard anything about his jail time, and I've been trying to keep up on the current news - is this confirmed? I just read the indictment, but I have not heard anything about a sentencing. Reason being is I'm from the Southie area...I guess you would call me a "Yuppie?" What a stupid name to call someone that increases property value to your area, but whatever...

Thanks for the info.

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That phony book was used by the prosecution as evidence as to his violence nature to hold him without bail, The street soldier! How would you like to be the street soldier sitting there in that cell at night thinking about those long, long, years in prison ahead....Same thing that will make you laugh, will make you cry, Goodbye asshole, good luck with the real convicts.....

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