SALEM (AP) - U.S. Rep. John Tierney, defending himself from claims by his two brothers-in-law that he had been aware of the illegal nature of their offshore gambling operation, said Tuesday the men were attempting to "blame anyone but themselves" for their legal problems, and he maintained that he had done nothing dishonest.
The Salem Democrat, who is seeking a ninth term in Congress, told reporters that he had been aware of the gambling business in Antigua but for years had believed it was legitimate.
One brother-in-law, Daniel Eremian, said last week after he was sentenced to three years in federal prison that Tierney "knew everything" about the illegal offshore gambling ring Eremian was convicted of helping run with his brother, Robert Eremian, who is a fugitive from justice.
Robert Eremian made similar claims in a telephone interview with The Boston Globe.
"The fact is that Robert and Daniel Eremian are simply continuing their pattern of putting their family through turmoil and trying to blame anyone but themselves," Tierney said during a news conference he called to address the accusations that have battered his campaign.
"It is unfortunate that their bitterness would continue to run to this level of anger and lies," he added.
Tierney said he remained focused on supporting his wife, who pleaded guilty last year to helping file false tax returns for her brother, and on representing his congressional district.
"I regret that my constituents have had to watch my family drama unfold on the front pages of the newspaper," Tierney said.
"Nobody who knows me has ever accused me of being dishonest," he said.
Patrice Tierney, who has rejected her brothers' statements, admitted during her prosecution that she had been "willfully blind" to their actions. She was sentenced to 30 days in prison following her guilty plea in U.S. District Court.
Prosecutors said she managed a bank account for Robert Eremian that took in more than $7 million in illegal gambling profits.
Testifying under a grant of immunity during Daniel Eremian's trial in January, Patrice Tierney said she and her husband did not know the online gambling operation in Antigua was illegal, though the couple had made visits to the headquarters of Sports Off Shore in 1999 and 2009. She testified that she did not ask her brother about the kind of work being done and that her husband only had dinner there.
John Tierney said the past two years had been "difficult and painful" for him and his wife, and that he would have considered not running for re-election had he thought that would help his wife. But he decided it would only cause her more pain if he was forced to leave politics.
He faces a challenge in the 6th Congressional District from Republican Richard Tisei, a former state senator who was the party's nominee for lieutenant governor in 2010.
GOP leaders have targeted Tierney as being perhaps the most politically vulnerable among members of the state's all-Democratic House delegation who are seeking re-election.
Tisei said last week that Daniel Eremian's comments raised questions about Tierney's fitness to serve. Massachusetts Republican party officials also pounced on the comments.
"This news, coupled with sworn testimony that Tierney dined at the Antigua gambling HQ, shreds what was left of his credibility, and begs the question whether he can be trusted at all," Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the party, said in a statement last week.
Robert Eremian has not been arrested because the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Antigua.
Prosecutors said he operated a large-scale illegal gambling business in the United States and later moved his office to Antigua but kept his business going in the U.S.
Tierney said Tuesday that he knew his wife's brothers had a checkered legal history and were involved in the gambling business in some capacity, but he also believed that Robert Eremian in particular had turned his life around.