Toronto Police have recovered the video that appears to show Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said Thursday.
Blair said at a press conference, “the video files depict images that are consistent with what has previously been reported” in the media.
Ford has long denied the video existed.
Blair also said Alexander Sandro Lisi will face an extortion charge related to the video. Torstar earlier reported that Lisi was involved in attempts to recover the video.
Ford has been the target of a police investigation that witnessed and photographed him taking part in meetings with Lisi, according to police documents released Thursday.
“It’s safe to say the mayor does appear in the video,” Blair told reporters.
“Detective Sergeant Giroux was detailed to investigate the matter of the Mayor Ford allegations and to substantiate any of the claims that have been made,” the documents said.
Those allegations began with the news, published by the Star and Gawker, of the Ford video.
The details of an extensive police investigation into Ford’s drug activities come six months after two Toronto Star reporters saw a video showing the mayor, obviously impaired, smoking what appears to be crack cocaine and making homophobic and racist slurs.
In a heavily censored portion of the document, police said that the day after the world learned news of the video that appeared to show Ford smoking crack cocaine, top homicide detective Sgt. Gary Giroux was assigned to “investigate the existence of a cellular phone containing a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine.”
The search warrant document contains allegations that have not been tested in court. The only charges laid in the matter involve Lisi and the dry cleaner swept up in the Oct. 1 raid.
Ford emerged from his home around 9:45 a.m. and walked toward waiting reporters and photographers yelling “Get off my driveway,” before getting into his SUV and driving away.
Multiple police surveillance photographs that pinpoint Ford or his assistant with Lisi have been released as part of the ITO (information to obtain a search warrant).
Three copies of the now infamous photo of Rob Ford standing in front of 15 Windsor Rd. with Anthony Smith, Monir Kasim and Mohammad Khattak are included in the documents. The file also included a picture of the garage door alone on which police have circled recognizable markings in the photo featuring Ford.
Police generated a “timeline of Rob Ford related information.” In this heavily redacted section, it said: “On April 9, police surveillanced 15 Windsor, believed to be a crack house. Looked like drug trafficking going on. . . . “No known persons observed.” No arrests that day.
And later, “A unified search query of Mayor Rob Ford does not reveal that his phone was reported stolen.”
The documents said: “Confidential source tells police Det. Const. Clarke that 15 Windsor Drive (sic) is a ‘trap’ house. The house belongs to a couple of crack heads but Dixon guys go there often to ‘chop’ crack or just hang out and get drunk.
“The source advises that they have seen the following people at this address: Liban Siyad, Abdhullahi, Monir Kassim, Ahmed Dirie, Anthony Smith.”
From March 18 to June 24, Lisi had phone conversations with Ford and two of the mayor’s special assistants — Thomas Beyer and Chris Fickel, according to the documents.
Investigators obtained a list of calls made to and from specific individuals on Lisi’s phone.
On the same phone, Lisi also spoke with Fabio Basso, who lives at 15 Windsor Rd.
The phone records also showed Lisi had contact with Liban Siyad, an alleged member of the Dixon City Bloods arrested during the Project Traveller raids.
Between Aug. 7 and Sept. 13, Lisi had telephone calls with Ford almost daily, often multiple times a day.
In the 44 days, Lisi and Ford had 349 “points of telephone contact,” the documents said.
There are also multiple examples of on-the-ground surveillance.
For example, just before 4 p.m. on Sept 8, after calls were placed to Lisi from the mayor’s Deco label business and his car’s On Star system, the pair met at the Esso gas station near Ford’s home.
Police watched as Ford entered the gas station, bought a newspaper and a Gatorade, then waited in his car. When Lisi arrived at 4 p.m., Ford got out of his car and entered the gas station again to use the washroom without speaking to Lisi, who backed his Range Rover up besides the mayor’s vehicle.
Ford got back in his car, the pair roll down their windows, talk briefly, and then left.
Lisi also had contact with members of Ford’s staff, including his logistics director David Price, current executive assistant Tom Beyer, current special assistant Xhesjo Hasko and former special assistant Chris Fickel.
The documents detail another meeting, in the early evening of July 1st, as the two arrived separately to an Esso station just 350 metres from Ford’s home.
The gas station’s security footage shows Ford arriving in his black Escalade around 5:40 p.m. and heading straight to the station’s bathroom. As the mayor’s in the washroom, security cameras caught Lisi drive up. He appears to be texting someone on his phone while holding an envelope.
Lisi entered the Esso and “searches around the refrigerators,” police said, before picking up a few Gatorades and a bag of chips.
Lisi left the store. Security cameras caught him standing near the mayor’s vehicle, holding the envelope.
“Lisi appears to be looking around, possibly scoping out the area,” the document said.
“He walks along the passenger side of the Mayor’s Escalade and walks out of (the security camera’s) frame. He is not seen again.”
Around the same time, Ford left the washroom and bought a Gatorade and pack of gum. Ford left the store about 10 minutes after arriving.
On June 28, Toronto police Detective Shertzer and Detective Constable Davey interviewed Fickel.
According to the documents, Fickel told police that the mayor and Lisi spent a lot of time together until “media release events [crack video scandal].”
“Fickel does not know where the mayor got marijuana from but has heard that ‘Sandro’ may be the person who provides the mayor with marijuana and possibly cocaine.”
Fickel told investigators that Ford met Lisi through Don Bosco football coach Payman Abdoodowleh, a man with numerous convictions including three assault convictions, a break and enter and assault with a weapon.
The former staffer added that Aboodowleh “said that he was mad at Lisi because he was fueling the mayor’s drug abuse.”
Among the photos is one of Richview Cleaners in the Richview Plaza where Lisi and Jamshid Bahrami, the owner of the dry cleaning shop, were arrested on Oct. 1. On June 14, police followed Lisi to the plaza, where he entered the cleaners for several minutes and left carrying a pizza box, the documents said.
Under the section called “Biography/Background of Mayor Rob Ford,” the document notes Ford’s political history and philosophy, community service, volunteer work, football coaching career and football foundation.
Outside his home Thursday morning, a visibly angry Ford shouted at reporters: “What don’t you understand? Get off my property.”
Ford only said “Thank you” in response to questions about whether he is the focus of a police drug investigation into Lisi.
As the journalists backed onto the sidewalk, Ford moved within inches of one photographer, yelling in his face, “Get off my property.”
The documents suggested police Project Traveller wiretaps also picked up details of meeting between Gawker’s John Cook and tipster who claimed to have an “associate” in possession of the video.
For Ford, the tough campaigner who leads Ford Nation, it remains to be seen whether the fact that police surveillance teams spent the summer watching him consort with drug and weapons dealers will have an impact on the former Scarlett Heights football player’s popularity. Olivia Chow, John Tory, Karen Stintz, and other potential mayoral candidates are waiting in the wings. Ford, who proudly says he has never given up on anything, has warned the election will be a “bloodbath” and that his fellow candidates will “bring up everything.”
The information to obtain the search warrant will provide Ford critics with much to discuss, everything from allegations of drug purchase and use, to connections to Toronto’s underworld.
It all began with news of a video shot somewhere near the Dixon Rd. apartments, site of the Project Traveller raids.
Ford is pictured alone in the video, shot on a drug dealer’s iPhone. A voice off camera goads the mayor into making comments. Justin Trudeau’s name is mentioned, and Ford calls him a “fag.” The use of Trudeau’s name gives a hint to timing of the video, which is also still a mystery. Trudeau was in the news for the Patrick Brazeau boxing match in early 2012, and in the news in early fall 2012 for his leadership battle.
Intensely loyal to family and close friends, Ford has surrounded himself with a group of yes men who are equally loyal. When Lisi was arrested Ford made a point of saying he does not “throw my friends under the bus.”But it is a small group, and it is unclear from Wednesday’s court hearing if Lisi is still a Ford ally.
What is clear is that Ford and Lisi spend, or spent, a terrific amount of time together. They met four times a week outside Lisi’s home just east of the Dixon Rd. apartments that were the epicentre of the Project Traveller guns and drugs raids. We now know that Lisi and Mohamed Siad, who wanted to sell the crack video, were close. Did Siad supply drugs to Lisi? That was likely a question police tried to answer.
We also know that a six man Toronto police “spin team” spent hundreds of hours watching and following Lisi and Ford. They used cameras mounted on telephone poles, tracking devices on cars, listening devices and even a Cessna airplane flying low over Etobicoke, so low that people the Star interviewed said there was no doubt the cops were watching.
Lisi displayed counter-surveillance techniques (frequently stopping his car, turning into random parking lots and driving the other way, etc.) while police followed him. On many occasions they followed him to meetings with Ford in parks. Detectives searched the area after and found empty vodka bottles.
After Ford and Lisi met in person, detectives noticed a pattern. Later in the day, Ford, on his drive home, stopped in at the Esso at Edenbridge Rd. and Scarlett Rd., just a few doors east of the Ford home. While Ford was in the Esso station, which houses his favourite Tim Horton’s, Lisi would drive up in his Range Rover and place a package into Ford’s Escalade, then drive off.
The Range Rover itself is an interesting story. It is owned by a former drug client, now straight, of Lisi’s. In return for cash and covering the monthly payments, the man leased the Range Rover for Lisi and not too long ago arranged to get him a new set of plates “which I need because of all this Ford s—.”
Despite witnessing dozens and dozens of interactions between Ford and Lisi, officers never once stepped in to make an arrest. As a result, police lack direct evidence that what Ford and Lisi were trading those many days ago were drugs and money.