BOSTON – As U.S. Rep. John Tierney watched from the front row of a federal courtroom, his wife pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that she helped her brother conceal income from an illegal offshore gambling business that generated millions of dollars.
Patrice Tierney, 59, of Salem, entered guilty pleas to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns related to her fugitive brother, Robert Eremian. She was accused of managing a bank account for her brother that took in more than $7 million in illegal gambling profits.
"I take full responsibility for what my part in this was," Patrice Tierney told U.S. District Judge William Young, who released her on personal recognizance. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13.
John Tierney, a seven-term Democrat who is facing a Republican challenger in next month's election in the 6th Congressional District, said in a statement Tuesday that his wife was betrayed by her brother, and believed his income came from selling or licensing software to legal Internet gambling businesses.
Tierney declined to comment on the charges Wednesday and did not respond when a reporter asked whether his wife's legal problems would hurt his campaign.
Boxford attorney Bill Hudak is challenging Tierney.
Hudak called on Tierney to make public what he knew about his wife's role.
"Certainly, I'm disappointed to hear the allegations against the congressman's wife, and the very first thing he needs to do is to fully disclose what he knew and when. I think he owes that to his constituents," Hudak said Wednesday.
Hudak said voters will "draw whatever conclusions they feel appropriate" about the charges.
Prosecutors will ask that Patrice Tierney be sentenced to two years of probation, including three months of home confinement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Wyshak Jr. said. Her attorney, Donald Stern, a former U.S. Attorney, said he plans to ask for straight probation, without any home confinement.
During questioning by the judge on whether she was pleading guilty voluntarily, Patrice Tierney revealed she is being treated for depression and anxiety.
Wyshak said that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would have shown that beginning in the early 1980s, Eremian operated a large-scale illegal gambling business in the United States. Wyshak said that after state police raided Eremian's office in 1996, he moved the office to Antigua but kept his business going in the United States.
In 2003, Patrice Tierney took over a bank account in Massachusetts that her brother used to transfer money from Antigua to the United States. Patrice Tierney allegedly managed some of her brother's financial and family obligations through the account.
Prosecutors say she gave information to his tax preparer that mischaracterized her brother's income as commissions and his employment as a computer consultant.
Eremian allegedly employed dozens of people in the United States who recruited customers and collected gambling debts and sent the money to Antigua. Eremian is accused of funneling millions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds to relatives in the U.S.
In his statement Tuesday, John Tierney said his wife acted in good faith when she agreed to take care of her brother's finances in the U.S. to help care for their ailing mother and serve as a de facto second mother to his three teenage children.
The congressman said his wife was devastated to learn her brother might have deceived her and 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," he said in a statement.
Wyshak said Patrice Tierney "deliberately ignored" numerous "red flags" that what her brother was doing was illegal.
Eremian and another sibling, Daniel Eremian, face charges including racketeering, money laundering, operating an illegal gambling business and witness tampering.