By Paul Leighton
SALEM — The wife of Congressman John Tierney is scheduled to plead guilty today to federal tax charges arising from her brother's illegal offshore gambling business, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Patrice Tierney, 59, of Salem, has been charged with four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false federal tax returns, according to documents that were unsealed in federal court yesterday.
Prosecutors say the congressman's wife managed a bank account from 2003 to 2009 with more than $7 million in money from illegal gambling activity by her brother, Robert Eremian, in Antigua. They allege she mischaracterized the deposits as "commissions" and her brother's job as "computer consultant" in documents submitted to Eremian's tax preparer.
She faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $100,000 on each of the false tax return counts.
The charges come less than a month before John Tierney will face Republican Bill Hudak on Election Day for the 6th District congressional seat that Tierney has held since 1997.
Tierney released a statement saying that his wife accepts full responsibility for being "willfully blind" to her brother's action. He said she acknowledges that she "should have done more to personally investigate the true nature of Mr. Eremian's business activities. ..."
Tierney said his wife believed her brother when he told her eight years ago that he was leaving the country to pursue a career in selling or licensing software to a legal Internet gaming business. He said Patrice agreed to care for their ailing mother and serve as a "de facto" second mother to her brother's three teenage children.
"She now realizes that the trust she formerly had in her brother was misplaced and she should have more aggressively questioned Mr. Eremian when he asked her to pay his personal (and) some family obligations and tax payments from an account he funded," Tierney said in the statement.
"I stand by Patrice in this difficult time," he said. "As she moves on with her life, she continues to be the primary caregiver to her own mother; a loving wife, mother and grandmother to her family; and a friend to the hundreds who know her."
The congressman said, "... there are not any allegations of any income-tax loss to the government."
Hudak said last night that the charges against Patrice Tierney raise questions about John Tierney's involvement.
"I call on John Tierney to disclose the full extent of his wife's illegal activities and his own involvement, if any," Hudak said. "We need full disclosure here."
Robert Eremian was recently charged, along with Patrice Tierney's other brother, Daniel Eremian, with racketeering, money laundering, operating an illegal gambling business and other charges in association with the running of Sports Offshore, an illegal gambling business that moved from Lynnfield to St. John's, Antiqua, in 1996.
Richard Sullivan, who is listed as from both St. John's, Antigua and Marblehead, and Todd Lyons of Beverly were also indicted. Robert Eremian and Sullivan are currently federal fugitives, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Sports Offshore consisted of an Internet site and a toll-free telephone line for its U.S. customers. Robert Eremian allegedly employed dozens of "agents" in the United States to recruit customers and collect gambling debts.
The indictment alleges that Eremian created shell companies to launder the proceeds of his illegal gambling activities. Prosecutors say he funneled "millions of dollars" in illegal gambling proceeds to family members in the United States.
The documents unsealed yesterday allege that Patrice Tierney managed Robert Eremian's U.S.-based finances through a Bank of America account in Massachusetts. In providing information to Eremian's tax preparer, prosecutors say she "mischaracterized" Eremian's income as commissions and his employment as a computer consultant.
Prosecutors say Patrice Tierney "engaged in a conscious course of deliberate ignorance regarding the true nature of Eremian's income and Eremian's ownership of Sports Offshore."
John Tierney and the former Patrice Chew of Marblehead were married in April of 1997 at a small private event in Salem. Patrice Tierney has three children from her first marriage.
For more on this story, look to tomorrow's print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at email@example.com.
Staff writer Julie Manganis contributed to this report.