Former Interstate Commerce Commission official Robert Oswald, the central figure in a year-long federal investigation of alleged influence-pedling at that agency, was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges of bribery, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defruad the United States.
The four-court indictment alleges that Oswald, former secretary and congressional liaison officer at the ICC, accepted $4,000 in cash, free trips to the Bahamas and to Hilton Head, S.C., and three cases of liquor "to influence his actions with regard to Consolidated Carriers Corp.", a New York trucking firm with alleged ties to organized crime.
In a statement released by his attorney, Miles Ambrose, Oswald said, "I have committed no crime . . . I did not, as charged, obstruct justice, accept any bribes or act in a corrupt manner during my service to the government. I am innocent and I am sure this will be ultimately demonstrated."
Consolidated Carrier Corp. is run by Thomas Gambino, son of the late Mafia family boss Carlo Gambino.
According to the indictment, which was filed in U.S. District Court here, Oswald also obstructed justice by allegedly getting a grand jury witness - learned to be Washington attorney Theodore Polydoroff - met over dinner with Gambino.
As part of the conspiracy, according to the indictment. Oswald recommended a private attorney to Consolidated, contrary to ICC Canons of Conduct offered advice to Gambino, vouched for Consolidated, directed an ICC attorney to assist Consolidated in preparing a case before the ICC and persistently requested and ICC commissioner to approve consolidated's application for operating authority."
Also named in the indictment, but not charged, were Brooklyn labor consultant Anthony Palimeri (also known mission official Robert Oswald, the as Tony Grande). Washington attorney Martin Martino, who worked for Consolidated and Washington lobbyist Dery Fleming.
Palimeri and Fleming were alleged by the indictment to have been present at an October 1973 meeting during which Oswald received a $2,000 payment from an unnamed person. It was also charged that Palimeri gave Oswald an additional $2,000 at another meeting in the summer of 1975.
The indictment stems from a controversial year-long investigation by the Organized Crime Strike Force and the FBI. During the investigation several trucking firms and individuals were granted immunity. Sources in the Justice Department say the investigation is continuing, and that more indictments are likely.
Strike force chief John Dowd, who ran the investigation, oversaw the handing down of indictment on his last day at the Justice Department. He is leaving to enter private practice in Washington.
Oswald was fired by the ICC in January, after an internal investigation uncovered many of the same charges made by the Justice Department.
The 45-year-old Oswald's final appeal hearing on that dismissal is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday.
"Strangely, on the eve of my first opportunity to be heard before an impartial tribunal - the Federal Employees Appeal Authority - this indictment was filed," Oswald said in his statement yesterday. "My attorneys learned of it from the press."
Oswald's attorney has been sharply critical of the Justice Department and the ICC in their handling of the case. At one point, Ambrose said, his client attempted suicide because of the manner in which he was "harassed" by the investigators.
If convicted, Oswald faces a maximum of five years in prisons and a $10,000 fine on the conspiracy count, 15 years and $20,000 on each of the bribery counts, and five years and $10,000 on the obstruction count