The Boston Globe
July 22, 2012
Michael Rezendes and Noah Bierman
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua — To hear US Representative John F. Tierney tell it, there was nothing unusual three years ago when he and his wife traveled to this tiny Caribbean island 300 miles east of Puerto Rico for dinner with his brother-in-law Robert Eremian.
“Dinner at my wife’s brother’s house. I don’t think that people would think that’s extraordinary,” Tierney said at a recent news conference.
But Eremian was no ordinary brother-in-law. A convicted drug smuggler and tax evader, Eremian had been under investigation, under indictment, or on probation for activities related to illegal gambling almost continuously since 1995. And, as the couple ate dinner on the patio of Eremian’s gated home that fall night, Eremian and his sister were in deep trouble.
Prosecutors were closing in on a 442-count federal indictment against Eremian, his brother, Daniel, and two others over the massive gambling ring that Bob was allegedly running out of the house where the Tierneys dined. Patrice, who managed Eremian’s US bank account, had collected and distributed at least $7 million in Eremian’s funds, prosecutors say, though she said she had no knowledge that the money had come from illegal activity.
But despite the key role of his wife in her brother’s affairs, and the looming indictments, Tierney insists that he had no inkling that night of the trouble ahead, believing Eremian was a legitimate software consultant. He said he never discussed the illegal gambling enterprise, Sports Off Shore, with him, and never discussed details of his wife’s work for her brother with her.
Within a year, Bob Eremian was a fugitive from justice and Tierney’s wife, Patrice, was facing prison time after pleading guilty to helping Eremian file false tax returns and being “willfully blind” to the fact that the source of the money was illegal gambling.
Now, John Tierney’s family crisis is threatening his political future as voters ask what the Salem Democrat knew — or could easily have found out — about the rampant lawbreaking by his relatives.
The eight-term congressman is facing a tough reelection fight against Republican Richard Tisei, who has made the illegal doings of Tierney’s brothers-in-law a campaign issue. Meanwhile, Tierney is fending off accusations from Bob and Daniel Eremian that he “knew everything” about their betting operation.