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Congressman Tierney’s wife to admit to tax fraud

Plea tied to kin’s gambling case

PROFITS MISREPORTED Patrice Tierney’s brother misled her, the congressman said, but she could have done more to look into the account. PROFITS MISREPORTED
Patrice Tierney’s brother misled her, the congressman said, but she could have done more to look into the account.
By Shelley Murphy and Matt Viser
Globe Staff / October 6, 2010

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The wife of US Representative John F. Tierney is poised to plead guilty today to federal tax charges for managing a bank account that her brother allegedly used to deposit millions of dollars in illegal gambling profits raked in from an offshore sports betting operation in Antigua.

Patrice Tierney, 59, is charged with four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns by her brother, Robert Eremian of St. John’s, Antigua.

The US attorney’s office said she is scheduled to plead guilty this afternoon.

In a lengthy statement last night, the congressman, a Salem Democrat, defended his wife and said she was betrayed by her brother. He said she believed her brother’s earnings were from legitimate business, but is pleading guilty because she acknowledges she should have done more to investigate his activities.

“She now realizes that the trust she formerly had in her brother was misplaced,’’ John Tierney said. “I stand by Patrice in this difficult time.’’

Tierney is in the midst of a reelection campaign, with just four weeks before voters go to the polls. The seven-term congressman has been favored against Republican challenger Bill Hudak, a first-time candidate and Boxford lawyer.

Boston lawyer Donald K. Stern, who represents Patrice Tierney, said that under a plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend that she receive probation, with several months of home confinement.

But, said Stern, a former US attorney, “I intend to urge the court to impose a sentence of straight probation.’’

Prosecutors allege that Eremian 57, moved an illegal gambling business from Lynnfield to Antigua in 1996 and deposited profits from his business, Sports Offshore, an Internet gambling site, into an account at Bank of America in Massachusetts.

Patrice Tierney is accused of managing some of Eremian’s “financial and family obligations’’ through the account and mischaracterizing deposits as commissions in documents submitted to her brother’s tax preparer for the years 2004 through 2008.

From 2003 through 2009, prosecutors allege, Eremian funneled more than $7 million in illegal gambling proceeds into the account managed by his sister, while passing himself off as a consultant for Sports Offshore rather than its owner. He allegedly transferred funds from a shell company, Benevolence Funding Ltd., into the Massachusetts account.

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,’’ according to a criminal information. The information, which details the charges, is a document that prosecutors file when someone agrees to a plea deal before evidence is presented to a grand jury.

In August, a federal grand jury in Boston indicted Eremian and his brother, Daniel Eremian, 60, of Boca Raton, Fla., on charges of racketeering, illegal gambling, and money laundering. Robert Eremian remains a fugitive.

In his statement last night, the congressman said that when Robert Eremian left the country in 2002, after pleading guilty to a federal tax evasion charge, he was permitted by the federal court and probation officials to travel abroad to pursue a career selling or licensing software to legal Internet gaming businesses.

Tierney said his wife disagreed with her brother’s decision to leave his family, but “agreed to care for their ailing mother and serve as a de facto second mother’’ to Eremian’s three teenage children.

He said she agreed to pay her brother’s personal obligations, some family obligations, and tax payments from an account he funded. Tierney said Eremian’s taxes were paid to the government, and the mistake Patrice Tierney made was listing his earnings as commissions rather than as illegal gambling.

“While devastated to learn that her brother might have deceived her and so many others, Patrice has acknowledged and agreed that she should have done more to personally investigate the true nature of Mr. Eremian’s business activities in the course of carrying out his requests in paying his children’s household expenses, family medical bills, and his personal bills and taxes from a checking account in which he deposited funds,’’ Tierney said.

Tierney represents the Sixth District, which covers the North Shore and stretches from Saugus to Salisbury, and he has been active on foreign policy issues. He first won office in 1996, defeating Republican congressman Peter Torkildsen, and has won reelection by comfortable margins since.

Tierney and his wife, after dating throughout the 1996 campaign, married the next year, several months after he was sworn into office. It was her second marriage, his first. She has three children from her previous marriage.

It is unclear how the criminal case against his wife will affect his reelection bid.

“My guess is it has a modest effect,’’ said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “For the few people in that race who have not decided between Tierney and Hudak, it might give them a little pause about voting for Tierney. However, I don’t see it turning any Tierney supporters away from him. Most voters can in fact separate the activities of family members, including spouses, from them.’’

Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com; Viser at maviser@globe.com.

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