Republican Richard Tisei is demanding that US Representative John Tierney and his wife, Patrice, forfeit more than $200,000 for her work in a “criminal enterprise.’’ Tisei may be dragging the congressional race into the mud. But Patrice Tierney provided an open invitation.
She pleaded guilty in 2010 to aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns on behalf of her brother Robert Eremian, a fugitive from justice. Between 2003 and 2009, she received $20,000 to $30,000 yearly for managing her fugitive brother’s afffairs, including paying bills for his family. Last week, another brother, Daniel Eremian, was ordered to forfeit $7.7 million for his role in an illegal sports betting scheme allegedly run by Robert Eremian.
It’s bare-knuckle politics, not beneficence, that drives Tisei’s demand that the Tierneys give the money to a charitable cause. And at best, it’s a stretch by Tisei. There was no evidence that the sums were part of a family money laundering scheme. And Patrice Tierney was never ordered to pay restitution.
Representative Tierney is outraged by Tisei’s demands. But his claim that Tisei has turned his wife into a “punching bag’’ also rings hollow. If anything, Patrice Tierney has been treated quite gingerly. Federal prosecutors asked for a relatively light sentence of 90 days of house arrest, arguing that the humiliation associated with the trial was sufficient to deter other potential tax cheats. Wisely, US Judge William G. Young didn’t buy the plea, and sentenced Tierney to a month in prison followed by five months of house arrest.
The issue in the case was whether Patrice Tierney abetted her brother’s illegal activity, not that she profited from it. There was no allegation that the Tierneys kept the money. Tisei is justified in making the case an issue in his congressional race against John Tierney, but his demand that money be paid back is a matter of politics, not justice.