Photo source/ Huffington Post
Photo source/ Huffington Post

“Your mayor smokes crack, right?”: May 16 reports become international news

Around 8am on May 17, 2013, I was sitting around a breakfast table in the embassy district of Nairobi with three school teachers from Japan. One of the woman politely inquired, “You’re from Canada, no?” When I replied in the affirmative she proceeded to inform me of the mornings’ BBC World Service broadcast: Rob Ford,  “the Mayor of the Canadian city of Toronto,” had allegedly been caught on video smoking crack cocaine and making homophobic slurs.

Later the same day, I was sitting in a Java House (Nairobi’s equivalent of Starbucks) across town, when I heard an animated discussion of Mayor Ford dancing through the bar lineup. I heard discussions of Toronto's mayor among the German students in my boarding house; and several weeks later, with rudimentary French, I managed to understand a conversation about Mayor Ford at a café in the Charles de Gaulle airport.

These anecdotes make clear that with the mere revelation that he had a hidden secret life, Rob Ford captured the attention of the world. But now, new details are being filled in and Ford’s secret life is becoming less a sordid revelation and more a novelistic saga, complete with colourful set-pieces. The information came out on October 31 in a 474-page court document, known as an Information to Obtain a Warrant, or IOWwhich was released by the Toronto Police Service. This document in large part details the police’s investigation of Mayor Ford’s “good friend” Alexander Lisi.

The extensive report is unusually long for a IOW document, and for good reason. Using Lisi’s narcotic trafficking as a starting point, the report details the antics of a large cast of interrelated characters, within which Mayor Ford serves as the entertaining main character within the convoluted plot. Much to the chagrin of media outlets, however, large portions of the report are obscured.

Adding fuel to the fire, the report was released within hours of a statement by Toronto’s chief of police Bill Blair. Blair stated that he is in possession of the infamous video of Mayor Ford and confirmed the reporting by Gawker and the Toronto Starnamely that Mayor Ford is indeed visible in the video, smoking what appears to be crack cocaine from a glass pipe in the company of an array of local criminals. Blair also confirmed the existence of a “relevant” second video concerning Mayor Ford's antics.

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The two media outlets to break the news of the alleged video both ran their stories with a photograph purchased from the owner of the video, who said that both the photograph and video were captured within the last six months. In the photograph, Mayor Ford is pictured with three young men, standing in front of 15 Windsor Road, a confirmed “trap house,"  with “activity consistent with drug trafficking.” An unnamed source stated, “the house  belongs to a couple of crack heads, but Dixon [an active gang in north Etobicoke known as the Dixon City Bloods] guys go there to “chop” crack and just hang out and get drunk.”

The residents of the house are Fabio Basso, Mario Bassio, and Elena Basso; they collectively face various charges of possession of narcotics and narcotic trafficking.

The IOW identified the three individuals who are posing with Mayor Ford in the photograph: Anthony Smith, who subsequently became the victim of a homicide on March 28; Mohammed Khattak, who was also shot the same day as Smith (but survived); and Monir Kasim. Perhaps coincidentally, on the day of Anthony Smith’s murder, Mayor Ford and Lisi spoke on the telephone seven times.

The three men in the photo are well-known to have an affiliation with the Dixon City Bloods. The gang has been the focus of a TPS investigation called “Project Traveller,” which was initiated March 18. An offshoot of the Project Traveller investigation was initiated to investigate the Gawker and Toronto Star allegations against Rob Ford.

Best Friends Forever: Rob and Alexander (and a couple other characters)

The report focuses on the close relationship between Mayor Rob Ford and Alexander Lisi. Since at least January 2013, Lisi and Mayor Ford attended events together such as Maple Leafs and Blue Jays games. Lisi served as Mayor Ford’s personal driver to a number of events, such as the Garrison Ball on February 23also in Lisi’s Range Rover that night was a man referred to as Bruno.

Lisi and Mayor Ford met through Payman Abbodowleh—a volunteer with Mayor Ford’s former football team at Don Bosco Secondary School and a friend of Mayor Ford’s for over 20 years. Not to be without his own set of criminal convictions, Abbodowleh has been charged with assault using a weapon, failure to comply, and theft.

A regular around the Mayoral office since early 2013, the Office of the Mayor even wrote Lisi a reference letter. This was less than two years after Lisi was charged with assault, forcible confinement, threatening death, and criminal harassment against his then girlfriend.

The IOW also details Mayor Ford and Lisi's extensive telephone contact; for example, three days after the Gawker article release, Mayor Ford called Lisi six times. From August 7 to September 19, Mayor Ford and Lisi had 349 individual points of telephone contact.

Mayor Ford and Lisi would also meet regularly in-person, however. On June 26, Mayor Ford attended a soccer game, during which Lisi arrived and spoke with him; following this conversation, Lisi walked back to his car and retrieved a white plastic bag to which he added several containers of Minute Maid. Lisi then placed this bag in the front console of Mayor Ford’s signature black Escalade.

Lisi and Mayor Ford continued to have similar interactions throughout the summerthey met at Lisi’s home or at an Esso gas station within 350 metres of Mayor Ford’s home. On more than one occasion, Lisi and Mayor Ford timed their arrival to the Esso and performed a logistical dance for security cameras. In one instance, Mayor Ford waited in the bathroom of the Esso whilst Lisi pulled up to the station. Lisi appeared moments after Mayor Ford’s disappearance, carrying a manila envelope, which he deposited in the passenger seat of Mayor Ford's Escalade.

In another choicey paragraph, the report explains that surveillance officers watched Mayor Fordafter approximately half an hour of conference with Lisi in his parked Escaladeexit his car and urinate in the nearby bushes of the high school where he is parked.

Their meetings aren’t all business however: on August 13, the pair meets in Weston Woods Park in Etobicoke. They spend nearly one hour in a deserted area of the park andlike a pair of careless teenagersleave behind an empty 375mL bottle of Iceberg vodka and a container of Tropicana grape juice.

Not long after this encounter, Mayor Ford described Lisi: “[he] is a great guy and as straight as an arrow.”

And the feelings are mutual: in the IOW, a source explained that “Lisi mostly talks about how much he loves the Mayor and how everyone is out to get the Mayor.”

The IOW also highlights Mayor Ford’s longtime friendship with a man named Bruno Bellissimo. On August 12, the Globe and Mail reported that Mayor Ford attempted to visit Bellissimo at the Toronto West Detention Centre on March 27—three hours past visiting times. The IOW explains the grounds for Bellissimo’s sentence: “he threatened to kill his mother, spat in the faces of his parents, and pushed his mother to the ground and hit her in her head and body.” Bellissimo is also a self-admitted “crack user.”

Bellissimo was the other man present in Lisi’s Range Rover the night of the Garrison Officers’ Ball, a gala which Mayor Ford was asked to leave on account of acting “intoxicated,” “out of it,” “rambling,” and “incoherent” according to reports from the Toronto Star.

Mayor Ford, Bellissimo, and Fabio Basso, a resident of 15 Windsor Road, attended Don Bosco Secondary School in Etobicoke within an overlapping time frame.

Business 101: Friends don’t let friends buy bad crack

Mobile surveillance of Lisi’s activities began on June 15 and officers quickly began to notice the frequency with which a black Escalade would roll around 5 Madill Road, Lisi’s home residence.

The author of the IOW explains that he easily cross-referenced the plate number of Mayor Ford’s Escalade as captured in media photos to that of the black Escalade which was roaming around Lisi’s residence: they matched.

Throughout the summer months, the TPS observed that Lisi regularly visited an establishment called Richview Cleaners, a dry cleaners owned by Jamshid “Jay” Bahrami. On one occasion, Mayor Ford rode along with Lisi on his regular visits, but did not enter the establishment.

On August 26, a TPS undercover agent arranged to purchase a half gram of marijuana from Bahrami. Throughout the process, Bahrami consulted his “guy” Sandro for appropriate pricing and coordination. Multiple sources in the report confirm that Lisi is known as Sandro among the individuals with whom he deals. Sources also confirm that Lisi delivered marijuana to Bahrami two to four times per week, usually wrapped in clothing.

Lisi and Bahrami were arrested on October 1, yet the pair were released on bail on October 2. Less than a month later, Lisi was arrested again on charges of extortion and is released on bail the following day. Unsurprisingly, Lisi was charged with extortion due to his attempts to prevent the surfacing of the so-called “crack video.”

The IOW makes explicit linkages from Lisi’s narcotics trafficking to Mayor Ford’s probable drug abuse issues. A source stated he heard multiple times that Lisi was selling Mayor Ford marijuana and possibly crack cocaine. In a police interview, Nico Fidani, a former junior staffer of Mayor Ford’s brings up concerns that Lisi may be providing Mayor Ford with illegal drugs.

In an interview conducted with the TPS, Abbodowleh explained that he was very angry at Lisia friend with whom he no longer is in contactfor "fueling Mayor Ford’s drug abuse."  

Mayor Ford’s “response” to police report and video confirmation

On October 31, media outlets stormed Mayor Ford's Etobicoke home asking for his response to the court document and the TPS confirmation of the “crack video.” In media footage, Mayor Ford becomes irate, yells for the media to get off his property, and eventually shoves several cameramen off his drivewayall while repeatedly saying “thank you”before climbing into his infamous black Escalade.

Later on October 31, Mayor Ford asserted that he has absolutely no reason to resign and further stated that "I’m going to go back and return my phone calls. I’m going to be out doing what the people elected me to do and that’s save taxpayers’ money and run a great government that we’ve been running.”

Mayor Ford is not hesitant to admit his entrenched relationship with marijuana, howeveron August 28, the Toronto Sun reported that Mayor Ford stated he smokes “a lot” of marijuana, “oh yeah, I won’t deny that.”

TPS doesn’t hesitate to report on Mayor Ford’s excessive sweating (and other shady activities)

In the IOW, the TPS illustrates a particularly negative image of Mayor Fordproviding in one instance a detailed description of Mayor Ford during a dinner date with Lisi and another male: “the three of them appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and or drugs but not to the state of impairment. Mayor Ford appeared disheveled with a large sweat strain circling his stomach, sweating profusely from his forehead, his eyes were squinted as he walked, his suit jacket was wrinkled, and he wore it without a tie.”

More significantly, though, the TPS made an unusual choice when it assigned Detective Giroux to investigate the Gawker and Toronto Star’s allegations against Mayor Ford. Giroux is a high-level homicide detectivenot the kind of agent who would normally investigate allegations of drug use. In the report, the author states "I have spoken with Giroux and this is what I have learned" thus beginning 11.5 pages of concealed textthe largest concealed segment of the 474-page report.

The TPS stated, however, that there are no “reasonable” grounds on which to charge Mayor Ford based on the two videos in their possession. Crown Attorney Tom Andrepoulos announced that the released court report conceals information which pertained to “innocent parties” and which was not “essential” to the narrative of the Lisi’s criminal case.

Why then, does the report go into such detail of the relationship between Lisi and Mayor Ford? None of Lisi’s other alleged clients are specifically highlighted in the report; partway through investigations, Mayor Ford began to complain to police that he was being followed by a variety of vehicles. It is reasonable to assume that the TPS conveniently used the illegal activity of Lisi as an excuse to dig into Toronto’s much embattled mayor.

In other news, Mayor Ford’s approval rating jumped by five per cent following the report’s release, according to a poll by Forum Research. Of the 1032 individuals polled, 98 per cent responded they were aware that the TPS had confirmed the existence of a video allegedly showing Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine.

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