Natalie Alcoba, Megan O'Toole, Adrian Humphreys, Josh Visser and Peter Kuitenbro
October 31, 2013 - 10:08 AM
TORONTO — Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair says investigators have recovered a digital video file that depicts Mayor Rob Ford and is “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.”
Blair also announced that police had on Thursday taken into custody the mayor’s friend, Alexander Lisi, and charged him with extortion. Lisi will appear in court today.
The police chief said he was “disappointed” after viewing the video.
Blair said the video was recovered as part of the Project Traveller raids on alleged gang activity in the city’s northwest end this summer.
“I think it’s fair to say the mayor does appear in that video but I’m not going to get into the detail of what activities is depicted in that video,” Blair said in a news conference at a police headquarters.
He said it is “consistent with what had been previously described in various media reports.”
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Rob Ford video recovered by Toronto police: Chief Bill Blair - The Canadian Press
The Toronto Star and Gawker.com reported earlier this year that they saw video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine and making a homophobic slur about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
“We’ve done our job here,” says Blair. He said a second digital file that was “relevant” had also been recovered.
“I have been advised that we are now in possession of a recovered digital video file relevant to the investigations that have been conducted. That file contains video images which appear to be those images which were previously reported in the press, with respect to events that took place, we believe at a house on Windsor Road in Etobicoke.”
Credit: Youtube: @TorontoPolice Chief Blair News Conference 2013-10-31
Blair made the extraordinary announcement shortly after court documents were released, revealing Ford’s close relationship with Lisi, an alleged drug dealer.
Toronto police assigned one of its most senior detectives to specifically investigate allegations that Ford is captured on a cell phone smoking crack cocaine, according to the documents.
Details of the probe are contained in a lengthy “information to obtain” (ITO) used by police to obtain a search warrant in the case of Lisi, who is accused of drug trafficking. A judge ordered portions of the ITO released to media.
“On May 18th, 2013 Detective Sergeant (Gary) Giroux was assigned to investigate the matter brought forth by the Toronto Star and gawker.com and their allegations against Mayor Rob Ford. Specifically to investigate the existence of a cellular phone containing a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine,” the sworn affidavit states.
The massive document includes pictures of Ford interacting with Lisi. The pair would often meet in parking lots and once met in “the woods.”
The document alleges that Ford visited an Esso gas station and when Ford was inside, Lisi placed an envelope inside the mayor’s vehicle.
In July, police obtained a “production order” which allowed it to view a list of the telephone calls that Lisi made on his Rogers cell phone with a number of people, including Ford, Richview Cleaners, Fabio Basso, Liban Sayad and three people in the mayor’s office: Brooks Barnett, Thomas Beyer and Isaac Ransom.
The court file shows that Ford repeatedly called Lisi in March, 2013. One line notes: “March 28, 2013: (Anthony Smith is killed). Lisi and Mayor Ford speak 7 times.”
In March, 2013, Ford called Lisi’s cell phone 44 times. On March 30, Ford called Lisi twice; the same day, Lisi phoned Fabio Basso, a man whose house appeared in a photo of the mayor connected to an alleged crack video, five times.
Police found four numbers associated with Ford in Lisi’s phone records, including the mayor’s OnStar, cellphone, home line and a fourth number believed to be a second home landline.
Between June 25 and July 19, Ford called Lisi 27 times, records indicate; 19 of those calls were from the OnStar number in the mayor’s Escalade.
During the same time period, Lisi called the mayor 18 times, but only called his cellphone once — a “dramatic change” from previous phone records, police say.
On July 11, police allege, Lisi placed a package in the mayor’s Escalade at an Esso gas station without speaking to him, after the pair exchanged brief phone calls earlier in the afternoon.
“Lisi can be seen walking around near the Mayor’s Escalade still holding onto the manila envelope,” the ITO states. “Lisi appears to be looking around, possibly scoping out the area. Shortly after this image he walks along the passenger side of the Mayor’s Escalade and walks out of frame . . . Mayor Ford exits the Esso Station, gets back into his Escalade and exits the parking lot.”
Under a heading called “Project Traveller and the Rob Ford connection”, the police affidavit details surveillance that occurred at 15 Windsor Road, a home “believed to be a “Trap House” (crack house) for the named parties to sell drugs from.”
15 Windsor is believed to be the backdrop of a now infamous photo that shows Mayor Ford with a man who was later murdered (Smith), and two other men who were later arrested. It alleges that surveillance crew observed activity consistent with drug trafficking and that “no known persons” were seen. “There were no arrests or seizures made during this operation.”
Then, large swaths of information are blacked out, but there is a first reference in the document to Lisi, with his address and a brief description of his interactions with Toronto police. A subsequent line states “a unified search query of Mayor Rob Ford does not reveal that his phone was reported stolen.”
Also interviewed by police in the document was Nico Fidani, a former junior member of Ford’s staff. Two detectives spoke with him on June 26, at the police 22 Division station. Much of what he told them is redacted from the document before it was released to the media.
“If the Mayor is obtaining illegal narcotics then it is probably Sandro who is taking him to get them,” Fidani told police, according to the affidavit.
Ford refused to answer reporters’ questions about the documents Thursday morning at his home in Etobicoke. He screamed at media to “get off my property.”
The nearly 500-page document was released Thursday morning, one day after Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer found no “principled basis” on which the court should give notice to dozens of named parties.
Several media outlets filed an application to access the massive ITO (information to obtain a search warrant) after police this month raided a west-end dry cleaners, arresting owner Jamshid Bahrami and Lisi, the mayor’s friend and occasional driver.
The document, called an Information to Obtain a Search Warrant, referred to as an ITO, is a lengthy compendium of information used by police to convince a judge to issue a warrant that will allow them to search private property to further a drug investigation.
While not facts proven in court, it is information that officers swear gives them “reasonable and probable grounds to believe” there is evidence of a crime.
This ITO was used by Toronto police to search Lisi’s home at 5 Madill St., and was sworn before a judice of the peace on Oct. 2 by Detective Constable Ali Nader Khoshbooi.
This ITO is unusually long and detailed for such a document.
For months, police have been investigating the mayor and a number of his associates, including Lisi, as part of Project Brazen 2, an offshoot of the June guns-and-gangs sweep dubbed Project Traveller.
Although it began when Lisi was allegedly caught trying to trade drugs for the mayor’s stolen cellphone, Brazen 2 was far from a simple drug probe. Toronto police put veteran homicide detective Gary Giroux in charge of the sensitive investigation, and cast a blanket of silence over his squad’s work.
Before Wednesday’s ITO release, few details of the project had emerged; there were reports that a Cessna was employed to track the mayor’s movements, and a leaked police document shed some light on Brazen 2′s genesis. The document revealed that police first picked up on Lisi’s name in March — two months before reports of an alleged video showing Mayor Ford smoking a crack pipe — when he was captured on an intercepted communication related to Project Traveller.
“Lisi was heard to be brokering the return of a cellular phone stolen from an associate of his, with a payment of marihuana,” the document states. Although the document does not name the associate, it was allegedly Ford.
In June, after rounding up dozens of suspected gang members in the Project Traveller sweep, police began conducting surveillance on Lisi and discovered his connection to Bahrami’s dry cleaning business in Etobicoke. Investigators allege the pair, both charged with drug trafficking, were working together to sell marijuana out of the dry cleaners.
Lisi — who has multiple previous convictions dating back to 2001, including assault and threatening death — has been described by Ford as a “good guy” who is on the “straight and narrow.” The two are friends, and Lisi, who was angling for a job with the city of Toronto, sometimes drove the mayor around in his Range Rover.
Ford also wrote a character reference this past June when Lisi was being sentenced for threatening to kill a former girlfriend, touting the accused’s “tact and diplomacy” and lauding him as “an exemplary member of my campaign team.”
One of Lisi’s neighbours said she frequently saw Ford stop by; he parked at the curb and interacted with Lisi through the window of the car, neighbour Carol Peck said. A report in the Toronto Star said Lisi made “aggressive attempts” to retrieve the alleged crack video after the story broke in May.
In one of his only public responses to the ongoing scandal, Ford has said he does not smoke crack cocaine, and “I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.” He has repeatedly declined to comment on Brazen 2 or on the specifics of the Lisi case, saying the matter was “before the courts.”
Faced Wednesday with the imminent release of the ITO, Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, said only: “I am not even paying attention to all that . . . Rob is the most honest politician in the country.”
Alexander Lisi leaves Old City Hall court after being granted bail in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Document on drug arrest of Ford friend to be scrutinized for mentions of mayor
TORONTO - A police document in the case of a friend of Toronto's mayor will be closely scrutinized for any references to Rob Ford after it's publicly released this morning.
An Ontario Superior Court judge has ordered the document relating to the drug arrest of Alexander Lisi partially unsealed.
The decision follows an application by media lawyers who argued the nearly 500-page document contains information that is in the public interest.
The document details evidence police have collected in order to get a search warrant.
Lisi — who Ford has described as a friend and a "good guy" — was arrested earlier this month and charged with four drug offences, including trafficking marijuana.
The Toronto Star reported earlier this year that Lisi was looking for an alleged video that appears to show Ford using crack cocaine, the existence of which Ford has denied.
The portions of the document that will remain under sealing order, at least until lawyers make further arguments next month, refer to innocent third parties not related to the essential narrative of the Lisi investigation. The Crown says those sections should not be made public.
But the media lawyers argue there should not be a distinction between what is essential and what isn't, since it is all read by the judge in determining whether to issue a search warrant.
Court heard there are about 70 people named in the information expected to be made public, including one person who is named in both the "essential" and "non-essential" information.
Ford would not comment on the impending release of information when asked by reporters at city hall Wednesday.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2013