BY JULIE MANGANIS, STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — SALEM — Moments after learning he’ll spend the next three years in prison, Daniel Eremian unloaded on his brother-in-law, Congressman John Tierney, yesterday, calling the Salem Democrat “the biggest liar in the world.”
“He knew everything that was going on,” said Eremian, 62, the former owner of Brodie’s Pub in Peabody who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla. “He sat in the boxes with bookies at Fenway Park.”
He called Tierney’s claims to the contrary “hogwash.”
Tierney, through his spokeswoman, Kathryn Prael, denied Eremian’s claims in a statement last night.
“Today, clearly bitter at having lost his case and harboring old family grudges, Daniel Eremian made bizarre, unsubstantiated and false comments,” Prael said.
“Daniel Eremian spent the last several years telling anyone who would listen, including a federal judge and jury, that he was innocent of charges the government accused him of committing,” the statement said. “Now he is claiming both to be innocent and that John Tierney should have known that he was guilty. His claims lack both credibility and logic.”
Eremian also said yesterday that his sister, Patrice Tierney, was “forced” to enter a plea agreement with prosecutors to save her husband’s political career.
Patrice Tierney pleaded guilty in 2010 to helping her other brother, Robert Eremian, file false tax returns. She spent a month at a federal prison camp in Connecticut and is on probation. At the time, Tierney was running for re-election against Boxford Republican Bill Hudak.
“She got forced to do that for him,” said Eremian, referring to his younger sister. “She got railroaded.”
Patrice Tierney responded with a statement of her own last night.
“It shocks and saddens me to learn that my brother would say something so utterly false about me and my husband in a moment of desperation and anger,” she said. “My husband has been nothing but supportive of me during this time, especially during my decision-making process in the fall of 2010 when I took responsibility and paid a price for it. It is demeaning for my brother to infer that I am not intelligent enough, even with the counsel of a well-respected lawyer, to make my own decisions.”
John Tierney, 60, is now seeking his ninth term in Congress and faces a challenge by Wakefield Republican Richard Tisei, a former state senator.
Asked if he was actually accusing the congressman of being untruthful in his past statements that he did not know there was illegal activity going on, Eremian repeated his claim.
“All I want to do is say he knew,” Eremian told reporters for The Salem News and The Boston Herald outside the courtroom. “For him to throw my sister under the bus was wrong.”
“Sadly, despite John’s attempts to keep things civil on the rare family occasions when Daniel was present, they did not get along,” Prael said last night. “It is unfortunate that Daniel’s bitterness would rise to this level.”
Eremian said he has not been allowed to talk to his sister and hasn’t seen her since she testified against him during his trial last fall because of the conditions of her probation.
The bombshell tirade outside the seventh-floor courtroom came shortly after U.S. District Court Judge Patti Saris sentenced Eremian to three years in federal prison, a sentence he’s set to start serving this morning, over the protests of his lawyer, who had hoped for a delay.
Saris sentenced Eremian’s co-defendant, Todd Lyons, 38, of Beverly, to four years in federal prison, calling him the “banker” for the Massachusetts branch of the operation.
The judge said she was troubled by the fact that both men had ample notice that what they were doing was considered illegal by federal authorities — Lyons’ home was raided twice, and he was pulled aside by state troopers.
Both men, who were convicted in December of illegal gaming, racketeering and conspiracy, will serve a year of probation following their prison terms and are already subject to forfeiture orders, $24 million for Lyons and $7.7 million for Eremian. Eremian was also ordered to forfeit property, including a helicopter.
Meanwhile, the two principal players in the Sports Off Shore operation, Robert Eremian, the congressman’s other brother-in-law, who prosecutors say is the head of the online gambling business, and Richard Sullivan, remain fugitives in Antigua.
Prosecutors Fred Wyshak and Robert Fisher suggested that Daniel Eremian had a “special role” in the operation, the only agent of the business to receive 100 percent commissions and the one who arranged to purchase aircraft for his brother but title it in his own name.
“It is Mr. Daniel Eremian who goes to Antigua to help Robert Eremian set up that business,” Wyshak said.
Wyshak said Daniel Eremian’s involvement in illegal gambling, which the prosecutor called “the family business,” dated back years, even to when he owned Brodie’s Pub, where, witnesses testified, some of the cash owed to various agents of the Eremian operation could be left in envelopes.
Daniel Eremian told the judge that the envelopes were of such little significance to him that he did not even recall them until the trial.
Prosecutors say that Lyons became involved in the business when he took over the “book” that had belonged to John Chew, Patrice Tierney’s son.
Marc Nurik, Eremian’s lawyer, also suggested that prosecutors were trying to punish his client because they can’t reach his brother.
Eremian, outside the courtroom, said he feels like both he and his sister were left holding the bag for their brother’s activities.
But Saris suggested that both Eremian and Lyons played key roles in the organization, even if they were not in a managerial capacity. The two men collected upward of $20 million from various agents around the country, said the judge and arranged for that money, minus their commissions, to go to Robert Eremian in Antigua.
“They were not runners,” Saris said. “They controlled the banks, they settled disputes, and that makes them very important people.”
Lyons wept openly as he apologized and begged the judge not to take him away from his daughter.
But Saris said many defendants have children and other loved ones who suffer the consequences when a parent is sent to jail.
Tisei, who has made the legal woes of Tierney’s in-laws a campaign issue, was quick to respond after learning of Eremian’s comments.
“It’s pretty obvious that the congressman hasn’t been honest, and anyone who has reviewed the facts of the case and history has to conclude that either John Tierney is totally blind to what’s going on around him, like Mr. Magoo, or that he turned a blind eye to what’s going on because he was financially benefiting from it over the years,” Tisei said.
“It’s tough to say that you don’t know what’s going on when you’re sitting at the gambling headquarters in Antigua watching sports games on all the TVs. Most people around the district are reasonable enough to know what’s going on.”
Salem News political reporter Jesse Roman contributed to this story.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.