US Representative John F. Tierney’s wife was receiving funds from her fugitive brother as far back as the early 1990s, when Patrice Tierney was going through a divorce and John Tierney was her divorce attorney.
According to records recently reviewed by The Boston Globe, Patrice Tierney’s brother, Robert Eremian, was covering her living expenses during her divorce, including $7,000 of John Tierney’s legal fee, at a time when Eremian was under federal investigation for running a sports betting business from his Lynnfield home.
Although there is no evidence that John Tierney knew Eremian was paying part of his bill, the funds that Eremian paid to Patrice Tierney raise new questions about John Tierney’s repeated statement that he was unaware of the extent of his wife’s financial dealings with his brother-in-law.
Less than a month after Patrice Tierney and her former husband filed their divorce settlement, in October 1995, State Police working with federal prosecutors raided Eremian’s residence, seizing evidence that led to an initial 1998 indictment on gambling charges and a 2002 guilty plea on tax fraud charges.
Matt Robison, Tierney’s campaign manager, said John and Patrice Tierney were not personally involved with each other while Tierney was her lawyer, and that John Tierney did not know Eremian was running a gambling operation.
“John and Patrice had no personal relationship. She was a client and John did not know her family members,” Robison said in a written statement. “John Tierney did not know Robert Eremian’s background or employment.”
Robison also said that Eremian did not pay John Tierney directly. Instead, he said, Patrice Tierney paid the $7,000 portion of John Tierney’s $31,000 legal bill with part of a $34,000 loan that Eremian made to her, which Patrice Tierney later repaid.
John and Patrice Tierney were married a year and a half after her divorce, in April 1997.
Throughout his bitter campaign for a ninth term against Republican challenger Richard R. Tisei, Tierney has tried to distance himself from a more recent gambling scandal that has engulfed his wife and two brothers-in-law.
In 2010, Patrice Tierney pleaded guilty to “willful blindness” regarding the illegal source of Eremian’s funds while helping him file false tax returns. Daniel Eremian, the other brother, has begun serving a three-year sentence on federal gambling charges related to Robert Eremian’s gambling enterprise.
And Robert Eremian remains a fugitive in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, where he has allegedly run an illegal gambling business known as Sports Off Shore.
Testimony from Daniel Eremian’s recent trial shows that, during the time John Tierney was representing Patrice Tierney as her divorce lawyer, from 1992 to 1995, one of Patrice Tierney’s sons, John Chew, was working for Eremian’s Lynnfield gambling business.
Chew, during his testimony, said that in the early 1990s, when he was a senior in high school, he was living at his uncle Robert Eremian’s Lynnfield house in a room above the garage, taking bets over the telephone while also working as an “agent” making wagers for bettors he had personally recruited.
John Olsen, another agent, testified that he started working for Eremian in 1991 and that Eremian’s activities running an illegal gambling business were already well known.
‘John Tierney did not know Robert Eremian’s background or employment.’
“Everyone knew it,” Olsen testified. “My friend said that, ‘You’ve got to meet this guy I know. He’s a big bookmaker on the North Shore.’ ”
Robison noted that Chew testified he was not in touch with Patrice Tierney for much of the time that John Tierney was representing her, adding, “John Tierney did not know her son at that time.”
During his campaign, Tierney has taken strong steps to thwart discussion of his family’s gambling scandal, at one point hiring a libel lawyer in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the Globe from publishing a story, and in other instances discouraging some debate organizers from allowing the issue to be discussed.
In the story, the Globe reported that Patrice Tierney received monthly checks totaling $24,000 a year from a bank account funded by Robert Eremian’s illegal gambling proceeds.
The story quoted independent tax experts who said the money appeared to be income that should have been reported to the IRS, while the Tierney campaign said the money was a gift from a relative — Robert Eremian — that was not subject to federal taxation or congressional disclosure requirements.
Tierney also has aired a television campaign ad in which he tries to dismiss questions about the scandal that Tisei has raised, saying, “The judge said I wasn’t involved in any way, shape, or form, and he was right.”
In debates, Tisei has insisted that that statement is inaccurate because, he has said, Tierney has taken it out of the larger context of the judge’s remarks and distorted the judge’s meaning.
A publicly available transcript of the statement, made by Federal District Judge William G. Young during Patrice Tierney’s sentencing hearing, suggests Young was summarizing someone else’s opinion rather than stating his own.
“Let me say it back to you because I’m not sure I understand it,” Young says to Assistant US Attorney Fred M. Wyshak Jr. “You’re saying that because she’s married to a congressman, who is not implicated in this in any way, shape, or form, but simply because of that marriage . . . that warrants probation where someone not in the news at all would get some jail time? That can’t be the argument.”
At the end of the hearing, Young brushed aside Wyshak’s request for a sentence with no prison time, imposing a one-month sentence followed by two years of probation, including five months of house arrest.
In a written statement, Robison said it is Tisei, not John Tierney, who is misrepresenting the meaning of Young’s remarks.
“There have never been any claims that Congressman Tierney broke the law,” Robison said. “It is shameful for a political opponent to now twist the meaning and intent of a statement made by a federal judge.”Michael Rezendes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @RezGlobe.