A New York lawyer and two General Services Administration employes were indicted on bribery charges yesterday by a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J.
The lawyer, Arthur S. Lowell, was charged with conspiring to make monthly payoffs to the two GSA employes, Anthony Pionzio, 54, of the Bronx, N.Y. and Joseph Montalbano, 50, of Brooklyn, to ensure that Atlas Paint and Varnish Co. would continue to get GSA contracts.
Lowell, 52, was also accused of trying to obstruct a criminal investigation by preventing a witness from talking with GSA investigators.
According to the indictment, Lowell began the illegal scheme in late 1969 when he was an employe of Atlas Paint. He allegedly told the company president, Dennis Tepperman, that he needed money for payoffs to provide "insurance" for the company.
Using a $12,000 cash horde, Lowell then directed regular monthly payments and Christmas bonuses to Pionzio and Montalbano for two years, the indictment alleged. After leaving the firm, Lowell continued to advise Tepperman that the payments be made and even warned the company in 1977 that care was required because Pionzio was under investigation.
The continuing Justice Department investigation of alleged payoffs to GSA officials also is known to have focused on Art Metal Inc., another firm Lowell has represented. GSA buys most of its stell desks, filing cabinets and bookcases from Art Metal despite complaints about their shoddy workmanship.
Lowell has been a close associate of former GSA administrator Arthur Sampson and of local doctor-developer Laszlo N. Tauber, who leases several Washington-area buildings to the GSA.
The Washington Post reported last fall that federal investigators were probing the relationship of Lowell, Sampson and others. Neither Sampson nor Tauber was mentioned in yesterday's indictment.
Lowell's association with Sampson and Tauber goes back to the mid-1970s when Sampson was running the government leasing agency and Tauber was trying to rent out a large building at Buzzard Point here.
The Washington Post reported last year that Lowell intervened with Sampson on Tauber's behalf. GSA eventually leased the building from Tauber for $2.5 million a year, although several federal agencies complained bitterly about plans to move to the isolated building on the Anacostia River near South Capitol Street. The Washington field office of the FBI is located there now.
Tauber hired Sampson, at Lowell's request, last year to run a new coal reclamation company they put together. Asked why, Tauber told The Post that Sampson "stood up for me on Buzzard Point. Am I going to turn him down?"