SALEM, Mass. — Congressman John Tierney's brother-in-law dropped a political bombshell on the Salem Democrat moments after learning he'll spend the next three years in prison for his role in an illegal offshore online gaming operation.
Daniel Eremian called Tierney "the biggest liar in the world" and said Tierney let his wife — Eremian's sister — take the fall for him.
"He knew everything that was going on," said Eremian, 62, the former owner of Brodie's Pub in Peabody, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla. "He sat in the boxes with bookies at Fenway Park."
He called Tierney's claims to the contrary "hogwash."
The 6th District congressman did not respond to requests for comment yesterday. The district covers most of the North Shore, from Saugus to Salisbury and, in the Merrimack Valley, includes North Andover, Georgetown, Groveland and part of Andover.
But his Republican opponent, Richard Tisei, was quick to seize on Eremian's comments, which he said call into question Tierney's "fitness to serve." Tisei has argued there was no way Tierney could have been in the dark about the gaming scheme.
Eremian said his sister — Tierney's wife Patrice — was "forced" to enter a plea agreement with prosecutors to save her husband's political career.
Patrice Tierney pleaded guilty in 2010 to helping another brother, Robert Eremian, file false tax returns. She spent a month at a federal prison camp in Connecticut and is on probation. At the time, Tierney was running for re-election against Boxford Republican Bill Hudak.
"She got forced to do that for him," said Eremian. "She got railroaded."
John Tierney, 60, is now seeking his ninth term in Congress, and faces a strong challenge by Tisei, a former state senator from Wakefield.
Asked if he was actually accusing the congressman of being untruthful in his past statements that he did not know there was illegal activity going on, Eremian repeated that he was.
"All I want to do is say he knew," Eremian told reporters for The Salem News and The Boston Herald outside the courtroom. "For him to throw my sister under the bus was wrong."
Eremian said he has not been allowed to talk to his sister and hasn't seen her since she testified against him during his trial last fall because of the conditions of her probation.
The bombshell claims made outside the seventh-floor courtroom came shortly after U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris sentenced Eremian to three years in federal prison, a sentence he was set to start serving today, over the protests of his lawyer, who had hoped for a delay.
Saris sentenced Eremian's codefendant, Todd Lyons, 38, of Beverly, to four years in federal prison, calling him the "banker" for the Massachusetts branch of the operation.
Both men, who were convicted in December of illegal gaming, racketeering and conspiracy, will serve a year of probation following their prison terms, and are already subject to forfeiture orders — $24 million for Lyons and $7.7 million for Eremian. Eremian was also ordered to forfeit property, including a helicopter.
Meanwhile, the two principal players in the Sports Off Shore operation — Robert Eremian, the congressman's other brother-in-law, who prosecutors say is the head of the online gambling business, and Richard Sullivan — remain fugitives in Antigua.
Prosecutors Fred Wyshak and Robert Fisher suggested that Daniel Eremian had a "special role" in the operation, the only agent of the business to receive 100 percent commissions, and the one who arranged to purchase aircraft for his brother but title it in his own name.
"It is Mr. Daniel Eremian who goes to Antigua to help Robert Eremian set up that business," said Wyshak.
Wyshak said Eremian's involvement in illegal gambling, which the prosecutor called "the family business," dated back years, even to when he owned Brodie's Pub, where, witnesses testified, some of the cash owed to various agents of the Eremian operation could be left in envelopes.
Eremian told the judge that the envelopes were of such little significance to him he did not even recall them until the trial.
Prosecutors say Lyons became involved in the business when he took over the "book" that had belonged to Patrice Tierney's son, John Chew.
Marc Nurik, Eremian's lawyer, also suggested that prosecutors were trying to punish his client because they can't reach his brother.
Eremian, outside the courtroom, said he feels like both he and his sister were left holding the bag for their brother's activities.
Tisei, who has made the legal woes of Tierney's in-laws a campaign issue, was quick to respond after learning of Eremian's comments.
"It's tough to say that you don't know what's going on when you're sitting at the gambling headquarters in Antigua watching sports games on all the TVs," said Tisei. "Most people around the district are reasonable enough to know what's going on."
Reporter Jesse Roman contributed to this story by Julie Manganis. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org