When Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s friend and occasional driver, Alessandro Lisi, would drop by Richview Cleaners in a leafy Toronto neighbourhood, he sometimes hung around after the shop closed to share a joint, said the owner.
Mr. Lisi, who is known as Sandro, brought in the mayor’s cleaning and mending – as well as marijuana, according to Jamshid Bahrami, who operates Richview.
Mr. Bahrami told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Lisi supplied him with marijuana, which Mr. Bahrami said he is authorized to use to treat his rheumatoid arthritis.
“Sometimes Sandro gets it for me, sometimes lots of people get it for me,” he said in an interview on Friday. “I don’t drive.”
A Toronto police raid of the shop Tuesday – part of an “ongoing criminal investigation” – also found “traces of cocaine,” according to Mr. Bahrami.
Mr. Lisi, 35, and Mr. Bahrami, 47, face several drug-related offences, including possession and trafficking. They were each released on $5,000 bail. Mr. Lisi’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comments Friday. Mr. Bahrami maintains he is innocent.
Mr. Bahrami, a father who immigrated to Canada from Iran in 1987, was unclear on the source of the cocaine in his shop, though he said he sometimes has friends over. But he said he’s not a drug dealer. “That maybe is from the customer’s pocket that has fallen down here. Maybe it was there,” he said, standing in front of racks of clothes in the narrow store. “I agree I party sometimes here after the closing. I have like a beer. Somebody must have done a line [of cocaine].”
Asked to elaborate, Mr. Bahrami said: “Is that a crime? Is it a big crime?”
Mr. Lisi has been in the media spotlight in recent months, after it was revealed he was the subject of a police probe into attempts to retrieve the alleged Ford drug video. Mr. Lisi, who has been spotted at Mr. Ford’s side chauffeuring him to official functions and fending off reporters, was described by the mayor on Wednesday as “on the straight and narrow.” “[I’ve] never once seen the guy drink. Never once seen the guy do drugs,” Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford did not take journalists’ questions on the Lisi investigation on Friday while in Austin, Tex., for a business development mission. His spokesman did not respond to an e-mailed list of questions about Mr. Bahrami. After reports surfaced in May of an alleged video that appears to show him smoking crack cocaine, Mr. Ford said: “I do not use crack cocaine.” He has also denied the existence of the video.
Mr. Bahrami said he has never met Mr. Ford, but sees the mayor outside his shop, which is in a busy strip mall that has several small stores, about a 10-minute drive from Mr. Ford’s house in Etobicoke.
Mr. Bahrami said he became friends with Mr. Lisi, who lives with his parents about 10 minutes away from his business, after he began dropping off his dry cleaning a couple of years ago. He’s also brought in Mr. Ford’s cleaning and mending “because I have a very good tailor,” Mr. Bahrami said. He noted that Mr. Lisi has invited him to his parents’ home, but said he declined the offer because he had to work. On at least one occasion, Mr. Lisi’s mother sent food to his store.
On Tuesday evening, Mr. Bahrami said Mr. Lisi dropped by as he was closing. The dry cleaner was tired from working all day, he said, so they went to the back of the shop and “we had a joint.”
Mr. Lisi, whose black Range Rover was parked out front, went to get something from his car when “boom, they just rushed,” Mr. Bahrami said of police. “I said ‘what happened?’ and suddenly other cops jumped here, handcuffed me – ‘put your head down, put your head down.’”
They searched his shop, eventually leaving with a box of evidence including a jar of marijuana, he said. Both men spent the night in custody. By Friday morning, Mr. Bahrami – whose customers call him “Jay” – had reopened the shop he’s owned for almost 20 years. He was also busy cleaning up the mess that police left behind and fretting about the future of his business.
“Wouldn’t you be worried?” he said. “Put yourself in my shoes.”
Mr. Bahrami’s wife, with whom he has a nine-year-old son, lives in a North York townhouse the couple purchased in 2001. Neighbours said they believed that the couple were separated and Mr. Bahrami was living in the back of his cramped shop – something both he and his wife now deny. “There’s no shower, there’s no kitchen, there’s no nothing here,” he said, but acknowledged he would sleep there from time to time.
Mr. Bahrami said he believes the police and media are out to get Mr. Ford. On Friday, The Globe confirmed that Toronto police had used an airplane as part of an investigation into the mayor’s associates. “That’s my mistake and his mistake, too,” Mr. Bahrami said, referring to Mr. Ford. “Being nice, being stupid, being naïve, you know.”
“They want to pin the mayor,” he said. “And I know I’m stuck in the middle.”