Republican Richard Tisei unleashed a broadside against US Representative John Tierney Thursday, saying his Democratic opponent and his wife should forfeit any money they received from her brothers’ involvement in a criminal gambling enterprise.
“Patrice Tierney, by her own account, worked for her brother and received at least $223,000 in ‘gifts’ for her work in the criminal enterprise. Every dime of that money should be forfeited by the Tierneys — now,” Tisei said in a statement.
Tierney reacted with indignation.
“It is outrageous that Richard has decided to personally attack my wife and to fabricate so many claims against her,” the Salem Democrat said in a statement. “Patrice is a grandmother, mother, and aunt who, in caring for her nieces and nephews, made an error in judgment. She accepted full responsibility and has paid the price. Patrice is not running for Congress, and she should not be used as Richard Tisei’s personal punching bag.”
Patrice Tierney admitted in 2010 to “willful blindness’’ of her brother Robert Eremian’s business dealings, as she pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns on his behalf. Patrice Tierney and her mother had received $223,000 from Eremian’s bank account, ostensibly to reimburse expenses incurred helping to raise his children.
This week, another brother, Daniel Eremian, was ordered to forfeit $7.7 million in assets for his role in the illegal sports betting scheme allegedly engineered by Robert Eremian. Daniel Eremian was convicted in December of racketeering; Robert Eremian faces similar charges but remains a fugitive from justice, reportedly in Antigua.
While previously vowing not to make Patrice Tierney’s legal troubles an issue in his campaign against John Tierney, Tisei said in his statement: “For years, John Tierney’s wife worked for this massive criminal enterprise. She made tens of thousands of dollars for it. She went to prison for her role. John Tierney should immediately give every single dime of that money to a charity. For them to keep the ‘gifts’ that actually constitute income is dishonest and corrupt.”
In a subsequent statement, Tisei said he wasn’t picking on Patrice Tierney personally and suggested the couple give the money to Gambler’s Anonymous.
Tisei, a former state senator from Wakefield and his party’s 2010 candidate for lieutenant governor, has been waging an aggressive campaign against Tierney. The incumbent is in his seventh term representing the Sixth Congressional District, which covers much of the North Shore.
Patrice Tierney pleaded guilty in October 2010, just before her husband faced reelection against a relatively unknown Republican challenger, and before Daniel Eremian’s trial.
As recently as a May 24 interview with “Greater Boston,” Tisei said “I’m not running my campaign on that. That’s [Tierney’s] problem with the voters, and, I think, it does bother people.”
During an interview with the Globe on Thursday, Tisei distinguished between attacking Patrice Tierney and John Tierney. “He is a congressman, and people have a hard time believing that he was Mr. Magoo and had no idea of any of this happening around him,” said Tisei.
Tisei said Daniel Eremian’s trial testimony made clear money was generated from an illegal enterprise, as did a federal judge’s order this week to forfeit those profits.
The congressman suggested Tisei was trying to divert from an issues debate.
“It is clear that Richard does not want this race to be about the issues that matter to the middle class, and that he is trying to distract voters from his support for this right-wing Congress,” Tierney said. “I hope that he returns to his previous position that he would make this race about the issues important to the people of Massachusetts and not our individual family members.”Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.