GAMBLING

Sports Offshore Operator Richard Sullivan Pleads Guilty After 14 Years a Fugitive

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Posted on: March 7, 2024, 03:47h. 

Last updated on: March 7, 2024, 03:47h.

Former fugitive and Sports Offshore operator Richard Sullivan has pleaded guilty to illegal gambling charges. That’s nearly 14 years after he was first indicted by a federal grand jury in Boston.

Sports Offshore, Antigua, Richard Sullivan, John Tierney, Patrice Tierney, Todd Lyons, Robert Eremian, Daniel Eremian
Ex-Massachusetts Congressman fielding press questions in 2010 after his wife, Patrice Tierney, was caught up in the Sports Offshore scandal. (Image: Boston Globe)

Sullivan, 73, was arrested in August on his arrival at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on a flight from Antigua, where now-defunct Sports Offshore was based. It’s unclear whether he deliberately returned to the US to turn himself in.

Sullivan was among the first to be charged under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), a law enacted in 2006 to prevent U.S. citizens from using the U.S. banking system to process online gambling transactions.

Sports Offshore was an online sports betting platform licensed in Antigua that processed bets from US customers. The business collected over $22 million and laundered more than $10 million in checks and wire transfers, according to prosecutors.

The sportsbook created shell companies to launder the proceeds and to avoid detection by US authorities. They also employed around 50 agents in the continental U.S. who solicited customers and collected debts, which were forwarded to Antigua, prosecutors said.

Industry Pioneers

The offshore sportsbook operators that emerged in Antigua in the mid-to-late 1990s considered themselves pioneers of a brand-new tech industry. This was at a time when it was not explicitly clear that what they were doing was illegal.

At least, that was until 2002, when the US Department of Justice issued an opinion that the 1962 Wire Act, which prohibited sports wagering via “a wire communication,” could be applied to the internet.

These sportsbooks chose Antigua because the Caribbean-island nation had opted to invest in high quality international fiber-optic cable infrastructure and promised low taxes in the hope of nurturing a tech industry in the dawning internet age.

When federal authorities began going after its online gambling operators, Antigua complained to the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming the U.S. had violated its commitment to free trade in recreational services.

The WTO agreed and awarded Antigua the right to suspend $21 million annually in intellectual property rights held by U.S. companies.

Congressman Embroiled

Sullivan operated Sports Offshore with Todd Lyons and brothers Robert and Daniel Eremian. In December 2011, Lyons and Daniel Eremian were sentenced to four years and three years in prison, respectively, and were ordered to forfeit more than $30 million between them.

The brothers’ sister, Patrice Tierney, is married to John F. Tierney, who, at the time, was a Massachusetts Democratic congressman. In 2011, Patrice Tierney was sentenced to 30 days in prison for “aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns” related to Sports Offshore.

Robert Eremian remains a fugitive from justice.

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