He learned how to fight and survive on the streets and lived under a strict code of silence. But he believes his former boss, James “Whitey” Bulger, who was apprehended by the FBI on June 23rd, is going to name names.
“Absolutely, he’s probably going to try and help Catherine Greig out or he’s just going to play his little game and go out being the scumbag loser that he is.”
Edward MacKenzie Jr., known as Eddie Mac on the streets of Boston, is a former Marine, a three-time national heavyweight kickboxing champion, and a Golden Gloves Champion. For seven years, he was a drug dealer and enforcer for Boston mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. However,according to MacKenzie; in 1990, after being betrayed by Bulger, he reached a plea agreement with the FBI and assisted in one of the largest cocaine busts ever. He later went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston in pre-law.
To say MacKenzie had a difficult time growing up would be an under¬statement. He spent his childhood in the foster care system in Jamaica Plain. MacKenzie also suffered sexual abuse and was raped when he was nine, and then again when he was 19.
“You form a resilience at an early age when you’re preyed upon, and then you make a decision, in this jungle that I grew up in,” said MacKenzie. “I am not longer going to be preyed upon, I’m going to become the predator. I want to eat now. I don’t want to be eaten anymore. So that’s, I think, what happened.”
When he was 12, he met Frankie MacDonald, who would become his best friend. When the MacDonald fam¬ily moved to South Boston, MacKenzie went with them. In 1999, Frankie’s brother Michael would later write the book, All Souls: A Family Story From Southie.
“When I was growing up, they helped me. When Frankie was mov¬ing to South Boston I moved there with him,” said MacKenzie. “It was like I finally belonged.”
MacKenzie dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. In 1978, at the age of 19, he was arrested for armed home invasion after trying to recover money from a drug deal where his brother was robbed.
Around the same time, MacKenzie met Boston defense lawyer Al Nugent, who he referred to as “Boss.” MacKenzie and Nugent formed a strong friend¬ship, and Nugent would later help MacKenzie set up his plea deal with the FBI. This time, in order to avoid prison, MacKenzie signed up for the military and would spend the next three and a half years in the marines.
“I did an armed robbery of some drug dealer who also beat my brother up,” said MacKenzie. “I went back and got my brother’s money back with my Mossberg shotgun and I got caught, so I was in front of the judge, and back then they gave you a choice, you either go into the service or to jail.”
After completing his time in the military, MacKenzie returned to South Boston where he built his reputation as a fighter, both in the ring and on the streets. MacKenzie trained at the Chinese Academy of Martial Arts in Chinatown and eventually opened his own gym in South Boston. He also won nationals in kickboxing three years in a row.
Although MacKenzie was building a reputation for himself as a fighter, he would soon attract the attention of the most ruthless man in Boston for differ¬ent reasons. MacKenzie and a friend had robbed the house of a woman he knew. What MacKenzie didn’t know was that her uncle was in the mob, and that Whitey Bulger and his friend Stephen “The Rifleman” Flemmi would be looking for him.
“I was practicing my 200-300 kicks that I used to do every day in my big mirror and I see him and Steve Flemmi walking up the stairs unannounced and I run over, I was going to kick them right down the stairs,” MacKenzie said. “He said, ‘My name’s Jimmy, I need to talk to you about something.’ And I didn’t know who Jimmy was, you know.
“He goes, ‘Some people call me Whitey, and I don’t like being called that.’ So once he said Whitey I recog¬nized that name, being from South Boston, and I was like, uh oh.”
Bulger then asked MacKenzie who had helped him during the heist. However, MacKenzie stuck to his code of silence and loyalty and risked his own life by refusing to tell Bulger. Intrigued by MacKenzie’s loyalty, Bulger gave him a pass.
“He asked me who I did it with, and I said, I can’t tell you that, if you’re going to kill me, no sense in killing my buddy. I will just have to go it alone,” MacKenzie said. “He put his right hand on my shoulder and says, ‘I like that, you’ve got some honor. I am going to get you a bye, I am going to get you a pass.’
“I was very relieved and as he walked down the stairs he turned and looked over his shoulder and he goes, ‘But I may need a favor someday.’”
A year later, in 1985, MacKenzie would get his chance to show off his fighting skills to Bulger. Timmy Connolly had asked MacKenzie to take care of some bikers that were causing trouble at Connolly’s Corner Café, a bar he had recently bought. MacKenzie agreed, and he and another friend got their Sap Gloves, professional fighting gloves lined with lead at the knuckles, and went to the bar one night.
“We slipped our Sap Gloves on and we knocked every f***in’ thing out in there, including the girls, the big fat biker girls. One biker girl threw a bottle at me, I knocked her right out,” said MacKenzie. “At least 20 knock¬outs, it looked like a mass unit outside, you know, five or six ambulances taking people out on stretchers with their cheekbones smashed, jaws broken.
“You get hit with those Sap Gloves, man, it’s like getting hit with a bat, and you’ve got two professional fighters, me and my buddy, who knew how to throw bombs. Let’s just say the Southie Blindside was in full effect that night.”
When Bulger found out what had happened, he was impressed. Not only did MacKenzie take care of the bikers, he knew enough not to talk about it afterwards. MacKenzie also became the manager of Connolly’s Corner Café shortly thereafter.
“He loved it,” MacKenzie said of Bulger’s reaction. “He loved how close-mouthed I was. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t tell anybody it was me. I could sit in the car with all my boys and they would be like, ‘Oh my God can you believe two guys went in there and did all that,’ and I am like, ‘No, you’re kid¬ding me. Really?’ I didn’t have no ego back then, I was just Eddie Mac.”
Once MacKenzie was successful with one job, he got called for another. This time, someone had hit the wife of one of Bulger’s close friends. MacKenzie was supposed to make an example of him.
“I went out and I found the guy, he was passed out drunk in some trailer right next to a house,” MacKenzie said. “I looked in and I said if I punch him in the face a few times he’s going to get over that, we all recover from beatings. So I saw a cinder block out there and I grabbed the cinder block. The guy had his leg, it was leaning up straight on a chair and the rest of his body was on the floor. So I smashed his leg in half with the cinder block and just started beating the [crap] out of him.”
Nearly a month later, at MacKenzie’s bar, he would run into the guy whose leg he had snapped in half. MacKenzie bought him a beer.
“The weirdest part was, three or four weeks later the guy come hobbling into my bar with this something that looked like it was right out a Star Wars café contraption wrapped around his leg with all these screws and pins and stuff and he goes, ‘I’m sorry dude, can I still drink here?’” MacKenzie said. “So I bought him a Budweiser and I said, ‘Yeah, sure, why not.’ I made my point, he’s not going to hit women anymore.”
Although MacKenzie worked for Bulger, the two weren’t very close. In fact, MacKenzie noted that Bulger wasn’t close with many people at all.
“I wasn’t close to Whitey, none of us were,” said MacKenzie. “The only ones that were, were Stephen Flemmi and Kevin Weeks and them. We were just soldiers following Caesar.”
Along with doing jobs for Bulger, MacKenzie was also running Connolly’s Corner Café, where he was dealing cocaine and marijuana. At first, MacKenzie had tried to clean up the bar and get rid of the drugs. That was when Bulger stepped in.
“I was poisoned when I got to that bar,” MacKenzie said. “People were sell¬ing drugs in there and I was knocking them out, trying to clean the place up, no drug dealing in my bar, and this, that and the other thing. That lasted a couple of months and then I got a visit from Whitey and Stephen Flemmi. They said, ‘Look, these people work for us, you can’t put your hands on them like that.’
“That was the end of my nice reputation of being a martial arts instructor. I had a bad rep for being a street fighter, but I wasn’t a drug dealer or anything, I wasn’t into that kind of stuff, you know, until I got to that bar and I quickly said, well, what the hell am I going to let them sell for, I’ll sell my own and make the money.”
MacKenzie says he was poisoned by the bar and blinded by cash. He would bring in $100,000 a week.
“Put it this way. I had a couple of daughters and I wanted to go to Disney World so I’d just grab a bag of cash and buy four f***in’ first-class tickets to Disney World, pay for everything in cash at the Grand Floridian, the best hotel for a week, I’ll see you later,” said MacKenzie. “Live la vida loca.”
MacKenzie notes that while his marriages didn’t work out while he was an enforcer in the Boston mob, he was always there for his kids, and he ensured that they lived the best lives possible.
“I was married to the lady who had my first kids, but it was a happy divorce,” MacKenzie said. “I have been very honorable when it comes to my children. I stepped up to the plate for every single one of them. They all knew they had a father. I just haven’t had luck staying with the mothers. It’s not like I’m a pig or a womanizer or nothing like that, although I have been called that in my past, but that’s mis¬understood, man, it’s just my mob lifestyle. It’s incompatible with coming home at 4:30 in the morning and having a family. So, it didn’t work, but I certainly supported them.”
MacKenzie continued working for Bulger and as the manager of Connolly’s Corner Café until 1990, when, according to MacKenzie, he was ratted out by none other than Whitey Bulger, who MacKenzie would later find out had been an FBI informant.
“The FBI, DEA, they all swept up fifty-one of us,” said MacKenzie. “Fifty-one of us got indicted in 1990, ten of us went to Danbury Federal Prison, and that’s where I found out he was a rat,” said MacKenzie.
“When I went to Danbury Federal Prison the first person I met was Raymond Patriarca, the godfather of all New England,” said MacKenzie. “The first thing he said was, ‘You know why you’re all here, don’t you?’ I said yeah, of course — I got caught. He goes, ‘No, you didn’t get caught, you got ratted out by your boss.’ People ask me, ‘How did you feel about that, Ed?’ and I go, ‘How do you think Caesar felt when he got shanked by Brutus? It was very painful. We were in shock.’”
After MacKenzie and 50 other peo¬ple were arrested, the FBI was looking for information on Bulger. MacKenzie refused to say anything about his former boss and instead gave them info on a massive cocaine deal he had been set¬ting up with a Columbian drug dealer.
“I went to the FBI and I says, look I got nothing to say about Whitey, any of my friends or nothing like that,” MacKenzie said. “But I don’t owe this Columbian guy anything, I’ve only known him a couple of years. I’ll give you him if you give me probation and let me put my life back together and be a father to my children.”
The FBI agreed to cut MacKenzie a deal in exchange for his Columbian contact. Now he found himself in an uncomfortable position, wearing a wire and helping the FBI set up a sting operation that would land 318 kilos of cocaine.
“I had a toilet- bowl-seat head since I was about 22 or 23, my receding hairline, and probably seven strands of hair on my head by the time I am 23 years old, so I went to Sy Sperling’s Hair Club for Men and I got a hair piece,” said MacKenzie. “So I got a rug, you know, and that’s where I would put the wire, there underneath the rug.”
Once MacKenzie was wired up, he went over by the Harvard Courtyard near Harvard University to meet one of his contacts. He was immediately patted down.
“I am in the Harvard Courtyard of Harvard University, because he liked to meet there and try and blend in and look like we were students, because he was Columbian, you know,” said MacKenzie. “He takes me into a hall¬way and I’ve got a shirt and tank top on and he starts to pat me down and he says, ‘Nothing personal, brother, but I’ve got to be careful.’
“He starts f***in’ patting me down and I’ve got this bug in my hair piece and my hands are up in the air letting him par me down and I am saying to myself, if he find this bug he’s dead right here, I am ending it now. I will choke him out and murder him, I’m not letting him leave if he finds it.”
However, he didn’t find it. Shortly thereafter, the FBI carried out one of the largest sting operations in history, netting 318 kilos of cocaine which MacKenzie estimated to be worth about $20-30 million dollars.
MacKenzie would get his life back and go on to earn his G.E.D. and eventu¬ally a bachelor’s degree in pre-law from UMass Boston. Today, MacKenzie is an employee at The Church on The Hill in Boston, where he organizes senior and youth programs. Most recently, he organized a trip for 250 kids to go to Six Flags.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story failed to attribute MacKenzie in paragraphs three and 36 as the source that Bulger had betrayed him and ratted him out. Paragraph 36 also previously read “he was ratted out to the FBI by none other than Whitey Bulger”, “to the FBI” has since been omitted. Stephen Flemmi’s name was incorrectly spelled with an a, and Catherine Greig’s name was incorrectly spelled with a K. The amount of cocaine in the bust MacKenzie assisted in was referenced to as 318 kilos and 320 kilos. It now reads 318 kilos.)
Adam Sennott was the Editor of Spare Change News from July 2010-July 2011.
(Photo by Janine Callen)