A friend of Toronto’s mayor threatened two alleged gang members as he tried to get his hands on a video appearing to show Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, police allege.
A brief court appearance Friday for Alexander Lisi, 35, helped shed light on his alleged activities in the hours after the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker published accounts of the video.
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair announced Thursday that investigators have uncovered what appears to be the alleged video.
Ford has said he doesn’t use crack cocaine and couldn’t comment on a video that he hadn’t seen or did not exist. In response to Blair’s stunning announcement he said he couldn’t comment because it was before the courts.
Blair said police have no “reasonable” grounds to criminally charge the mayor based on the video.
Lisi was charged with extortion this week for alleged attempts to get the recording. The mayor’s friend and occasional driver made his first court appearance Friday morning and was released on $5,000 bail, with his father acting as his surety.
Lisi was already out on bail after being arrested and charged last month with four drug offences, including trafficking marijuana.
Evidence presented at the bail hearing was placed under a publication ban, but wording in Lisi’s formal charge and his bail conditions paint a picture of what investigators allege.
The Star and Gawker reports were published the night of May 16, and Lisi’s extortion charge alleges that between May 16 and 18 he “did induce Mohamed Siad or Liban Siyad by threats or violence or menace to deliver said digital video recording.”
Siad is referred to in a police report released by the courts Thursday as “believed to have been one of the people trying to sell Mayor Ford crack video.”
Both Siad and Siyad were arrested as part of Project Traveller, a drugs and weapons investigation that culminated June 13 with a series of raids.
It was that day that police seized a hard drive on which the video was ultimately found as a deleted file, Blair said.
The arrests targeted alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods gang and both men are facing charges of participating in a criminal organization.
Siyad is also one of the people that a confidential informant told police he has seen at an alleged “crack house” on Windsor Road in Toronto.
“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 is quoted as telling investigators in the recently released police report.
Some of the members of the Basso family, who live there, have lengthy criminal records, including for drug offences.
Lisi’s bail conditions include not communicating with the Bassos, Siad and Siyad. He is also not allowed to go to the home on Windsor Road.
The police allegations also suggest the home is where a photo was taken showing Ford posing with Anthony Smith, who was later shot and killed, and two other men who were subsequently arrested and charged as part of Project Traveller.
Phone records in the police report show Lisi exchanged several calls with Siad, Siyad and a member of the Basso family in the hours after the May 16 media reports of the alleged video, as well as with the mayor.
Over the next two days, phone records show frequent calls between Lisi and the mayor, as well as between Lisi and Basso, Siad and Siyad.
Phone records over a longer period of time show Lisi and the mayor were in frequent contact, often speaking several times a day, involving up to 18 calls.
The phone records of May 18 also show Lisi was in contact with Richview Cleaners, where owner Jamshid Bahrami was eventually charged alongside Lisi in the drug investigation. Police allege that Lisi provided Bahrami with marijuana that he ended up selling to an undercover officer.
In order to stay out on bail, Lisi also has to abstain from using illegal drugs, make reasonable efforts to get a job or go to school full-time and continue living with his parents.
He can’t have weapons or more than one cellphone, and can’t associate with anyone he knows has a criminal record unless accompanied by his lawyer.
Lisi stood before a packed Toronto courtroom Friday morning, wearing a Canada Goose parka and jeans, turning his back to a gallery crowded with reporters and beating a hasty exit once he was released.