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.