Back in the day in South Boston, Eddie MacKenzie described himself as an “enforcer for Whitey Bulger.”
But in reality, Eddie Mac was more like a con artist, a grifter, a flim-flam man.
And now, at the age of 62, he’s trying to work his greatest scam yet — attempting to talk his way out of Club Fed more than three years early, on account of the nursing-home pandemic.
This thug was handed a 12-year sentence in 2015 for stealing millions from an old Protestant church at the top of Beacon Hill. He now resides in Ayer, at Devens Federal Medical Center. If you want to send him your regards, his Bureau of Prisons number is 17938-038.
MacKenzie, or his lawyer anyway, was in front of Judge Patti Saris in Boston Monday looking for an early release because of the, uh, peril.
This is what con artists do. They work the angles. Like hundreds of other sticky-fingered criminals, Eddie Mac seen his opportunities and he took ‘em.
MacKenzie was famous for 15 minutes back around 2003 after he got out of prison the first time. Cashing in on the Whitey book boom, he got someone to write a tome for him entitled “Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob.”
It was sort of a minor echo of “All Souls,” but with a generous measure of utter BS thrown in, reminiscent of a Boston Globe metro column. You know the genre: broken home, sexual abuse, wasted days and wasted nights, drug dealing blah-blah-blah.
For instance, Eddie Mac claimed that one day he was strolling down Broadway, and Whitey pulled up in his car and invited him in to observe the beating — or maybe the murder, I can’t remember — of a rat, or somebody. As if Whitey liked witnesses.
In its own way, though, “Street Soldier” was entertaining, so I invited him on my radio show. He showed up one night straight out of Central Casting, dressed like a cartoon version of a Southie gangster — gold chains, sweat pants, scally cap, etc.
The next day, the radio-station receptionist, a rather naïve young woman, asked me, “Was that guy who came in here last night a gangster?
“He thinks he is,” I told her.
But he was in fact an above-average swindler, as he soon proved. He scouted out this church at the top of Beacon Hill with an ancient Yankee congregation. This scam has been worked in at least a couple of places around the city, but the added attraction here was that the church owned an 18-story apartment building right there at the top of the hill.
It was a gold mine, in other words. Eddie and his fellow, uh, street soldiers, took over the whole church, like it was a union local in “On the Waterfront.” When the ancient Brahmins began to figure out that their beloved church had been turned into a racket, Eddie Mac gave some of them an ominous warning — he started handing out copies of his magnum opus, “Street Soldier.”
Soon Eddie was making $200,000 a year as “director of operations,” not to mention whatever else he could grab. It couldn’t last, and it didn’t. He went down on a federal rap — RICO conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, mail fraud conspiracy, wire fraud.
At sentencing Judge F. Dennis Saylor noted that while in federal custody, Eddie Mac had continued his crime wave “including fraud, extortion and witness tampering.” He also questioned MacKenzie’s “remorse and sincerity.”
“I am struggling,” the judge said, “to find any redeeming qualities in Mr. MacKenzie.”
That makes two of us, Judge.
The last time I spoke to Eddie Mac was shortly before he got lugged. I was on a break on my radio show one day when I got a call from … a friend of mine, let’s say.
“This Eddie MacKenzie,” he said, “he’s a friend of yours, right?”
“I know him,” I said, by way of correction. But yes, I did have his cellphone number.
Eddie Mac had done something to irritate some friends of my friend — something very bad, and very predictable if you knew Eddie Mac. And now the friends of my friend were looking for him, more than somewhat. My friend gave me some instructions for Eddie Mac.
“You tell Eddie Mac,” my friend said, “that he’d better do what you tell him to do, or I’ll have to tell him personally, and believe me, he’d rather be talking to you than talking to me. You know what I mean?”
I knew what he meant. So did Eddie Mac.
I just looked up Eddie Mac on the BOP website. Until this Panic of 2020, he wasn’t supposed to get out of prison until August 2023. And now the only thing standing between Eddie Mac and another grift or 10 is Judge Saris. I’m not confident about our chances.
And one final note to my friend: Next time Eddie Mac double-crosses your pals, don’t call me. I do still have his cellphone number, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work, after his last seven years in Club Fed.
Eddie Mac, when the phone don’t ring, you’ll know it’s me.