Marijuana exchanged for a lost cellphone. Photos of Mayor Rob Ford in the company of suspected gang members. A woman called Princess arranging a meeting at a suspected crack house. An offer of $5,000 and a car for a video.
These are the newest in a series of allegations to emerge from police wiretaps and interviews in a case involving Ford’s friend Alessandro (Sandro) Lisi.
Read the full police document here.
A scramble to retrieve the mayor's cellphone
On the night of April 20, Mayor Rob Ford's cellphone goes missing. He tells his staff that the device slid off the hood of his SUV while he was participating in a park cleanup in Etobicoke. Newly released wiretap summaries offer a very different explanation for the phone’s disappearance – one that involves drugs, a woman known as “Princess” and a crack house. The Information to Obtain lays out the alleged events leading up to the loss of the cellphone and the scramble to retrieve it. The quotes come from police summaries of the wiretaps, not actual transcripts of the intercepted conversations.
12:52 a.m., Saturday, April 20: Liban Siyad, 22, calls a woman at 15 Windsor Rd. in Etobicoke, a known crack house, according to police. Unbeknownst to Mr. Siyad, police have been monitoring his cellphone communications for a month now, along with the phones of other alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods gang under a police investigation dubbed Project Traveller. That night, police hear a woman at the bungalow, who they believe is Elena Basso, tell Mr. Siyad that Rob Ford is at her house. She asks Mr. Siyad to come over quickly.
12:54 a.m.: Mr. Siyad gets a 19-second call from Abdullahi Harun. Mr. Harun, 22, tells him to go to Princess’s house to deliver drugs to Mr. Ford. Mr. Siyad tells him he already knows because he just spoke to Princess, a nickname for Ms. Basso, who has convictions for prostitution and drug trafficking.
12:59 a.m.: Mr. Siyad tells another associate he’s going to “deal with Rob Ford right now.”
2:18 a.m.: Mr. Siyad and Mr. Harun talk over the phone again. Mr. Harun tells Mr. Siyad that he has tons of pictures of Mr. Ford doing the “hezza” (a street name for heroin, although the document does not specify this). He also has Mr. Ford smoking on the “dugga.” Mr. Siyad advises that a picture of the mayor would be worth a lot.
5:51 a.m.: Mr. Siyad calls an unidentified number to say the mayor was “smoking his rocks today” and that he will upload a picture to Instagram, the online photo-sharing site.
11:37 a.m.: Mr. Siyad receives a call from a number traced to Alessandro Lisi, the mayor’s friend and occasional driver. The mayor’s cellphone is missing, and Mr. Lisi accuses Mr. Siyad and a friend of stealing it while they were all at the Basso house. According to Mr. Lisi, the mayor is freaking out and threatening to “put the heat on Dixon” if the phone isn’t returned. Mr. Siyad responds that he’ll make a call and get the phone back.
12:21 p.m.: Another call from Mr. Lisi’s number comes in to Mr. Siyad’s phone. This time Mr. Siyad insists that nobody stole the phone and that a member of the Basso family must have it.
12:51 p.m.: Mr. Lisi calls again to say he will meet Mr. Siyad at “the house” with “one of his boys.” Mr. Siyad agrees to the meeting.
1:01 p.m.: Mr. Siyad calls an individual identified only as “Juice Man.” They discuss explanations they might offer when they return the phone, such as claiming they thought it belonged to Ms. Basso’s brother Fabio. Juice Man says that they “love and respect” Mr. Ford but have seen the mayor in unflattering situations. Mr. Siyad says he doesn’t appreciate Mr. Lisi’s threats considering they “have a picture of Rob Ford on a pipe.”
1:22 p.m.: Mr. Lisi calls Mr. Siyad again and is assured the phone has been recovered. Mr. Lisi offers marijuana in return, and they agree to meet at a Country Style coffee shop.
1:25 p.m.: Mr. Lisi tells Mr. Siyad he’s at the rendezvous point in the back.
3:01 p.m.: During a conversation between Ahmed Dirie and Mohamed Omar, two other Project Traveller suspects, Mr. Omar says he and Juice Man retrieved the phone and returned it.
5:31 p.m.: Mr. Siyad calls an unknown male to tell him he received “1.5 of kush” – an unknown quantity of marijuana – from the mayor’s driver.
7:08 p.m.: Mr. Siyad tells another unknown male that he has “Rob Ford’s kush and that he was drinking with him last night …”
Mayor's aide recognizes the house in the photo
On the morning of May 17, less than a dozen hours after it had been revealed to the world that the mayor of Toronto had been captured on video smoking crack cocaine, one of the mayor’s top aides and a close friend of his family embarked on a hunt.
David Price, who at the time was serving as Mayor Rob Ford’s director of “operations and logistics,” had only been on the job for about six weeks, but he quickly surmised, he later told police, that the mayor’s problems were linked to a specific bungalow that he was somewhat familiar with – and, according to documents released by an Ontario Superior Court judge on Wednesday, he set off, on his own initiative, to determine whether he was right.
The documents show that when the Toronto Star and New York-based gossip website Gawker published a photograph of the mayor posing with three men who would later be identified by police as alleged drug dealers, Mr. Price recognized the backdrop: the driveway and garage of 15 Windsor Rd., a north Etobicoke bungalow that police have described as a “crack house.” So, around 8 a.m., Mr. Price drove to the home, which he knew to be occupied by Fabio Basso, who Mr. Price had “heard” was “involved in the illegal drug trade,” he told investigators.
“He went there and realized that it was in fact the same place [as the photograph],” according to a summary of a June 19 interview that Mr. Price conducted with Toronto police detectives. “He was in crisis management mode.”
At the front door, Mr. Price was rebuffed by Mr. Basso’s older sister, Elena, whom Mr. Price described to investigators as appearing to be “high.” The 50-year-old mayoral aide left and never returned, the documents state. The mayor never instructed him to visit the house, Mr. Price told police.
Mr. Price could not be reached for comment late Wednesday night. On May 21, four days after his visit to the house, several members of the Basso family were attacked after an intruder burst into 15 Windsor Rd., assaulted the occupants and fled, Toronto police say. No one has been charged in connection with those attacks, which are still under investigation. There is no suggestion by police in the recently released affidavit that Mr. Price played any role in those assaults.
As for how Mr. Price recognized the house in the photograph, he told investigators that the bungalow had been used for about three hours to make phone calls during a political campaign involving the Ford family some eight years earlier. He told investigators he had never been to the house with the mayor.
At the time of Mr. Price’s appointment to the mayor’s office in March, neither the mayor nor his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, would describe his duties in detail. (Mr. Price told the police officers that he was responsible for customer service, social media, phone calls, letters and other contact with the public.)
In a profile of the Ford family published in May, The Globe and Mail identified Mr. Price as a partner in Doug Ford’s hashish dealing operation in the 1980s. Mr. Price told police that when he alerted Doug Ford, whom he described as his best friend, that he was sitting down with investigators, his friend replied: “Ahh fuck Dave.”
Mr. Price explained that Mr. Ford was “not angry that Price was speaking to the police; he just really wanted to move forward and put this scandal behind them.”
'Five thousand and a car'
The new wiretap information suggests the mayor tried to retrieve the video long before the media first published stories about it – stories that the mayor called “ridiculous” the day they came out.
On March 26, the Toronto Star reported that Mr. Ford had been asked to leave a February gala because organizers were concerned he was impaired. One day later, Mohamed Siad (pictured above) had a wide-ranging conversation about the mayor with Siyadin Abdi, a 29-year-old man arrested in the Project Traveller investigation for firearms trafficking and participating in a criminal organization. The two refer to Mr. Ford as their friend and talk about the media coverage of Mr. Ford’s alleged intoxication. “They then discussed plans to sell the tape,” according to the Information to Obtain.
“Remember that day he said that in front of me?” the document quotes Mr. Abdi as saying.
“Ya, he said I’ll give you five thousand and a car,” Mr. Siad replied, according to the ITO, which spells out that investigators believe the men were talking about the mayor.
Mr. Siad apparently rejected the offer. He goes on to say that he intends to meet with the mayor and ask for $150,000. Mr. Abdi counters that the video could be sold to the Star and an unnamed website. When Mr. Siad says he’d rather go to the mayor personally and ask him for “100 or 150,” his friend warns him he’s “putting himself in jeopardy.”
No connection to Smith murder
The most alarming information police received about the alleged Rob Ford video had to be the suggestion it was linked to the murder of Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old resident of the Dixon Road area in Etobicoke who was gunned down outside a downtown Toronto club on March 28.
That allegation first surfaced in a interview police conducted with the mayor’s chief of staff, Mark Towhey, on May 18, a day after media reports about the crack video surfaced. Mr. Towhey told police that one of the mayor’s staffers, David Price, had received a tip pinpointing the location of the video. The tipster told Mr. Price that “Somali drug dealers” had the video in a North Etobicoke apartment, according to Mr. Towhey’s interview with police.
After Mr. Towhey ordered Mr. Price against taking any action based on the tip, Mr. Price divulged that he thought the cellphone containing the explosive Ford video belonged to Mr. Smith, and that it was the reason the young man had been murdered.
At the time, the explanation seemed remotely plausible. Mr. Smith had appeared alongside the mayor in a photo that emerged with the first published reports about the video. In that photo, the mayor is seen smiling beside Mr. Smith and two other men outside a beige bungalow located at 15 Windsor Rd., a home belonging to the Basso family that police identify in the ITO (Information to Obtain) as a crack house.
Mr. Towhey immediately recognized the gravity of the information – potential evidence in a homicide investigation – and went to police, but not before he directed Mr. Price to withhold the information from the mayor. Mr. Towhey eventually called Inspector Stu Eley, the usual liaison between the mayor’s office and the Toronto Police.
Moments before he met with investigators to talk about the disturbing tip, Mr. Towhey received a text message from the mayor’s press secretary, George Christopoulos, providing the address and unit number where the video was supposedly located: 320 Dixon Rd., unit 1703.
The investigators also interviewed Mr. Price, who said the tipster, who sounded “Canadian born” advised him that if he wanted to retrieve the video he should talk to someone named Gotti – an alias police believe refers to Mohamed Siad, the man who attempted to shop the video to several media outlets. Mr. Price told police he didn’t recognize the caller. During a second call with the same unidentified man, the caller told Mr. Price that Gotti and an associate named “D” were friends/partners of Mr. Smith’s.
Mr. Price told police that the tipster never informed him why Mr. Smith was murdered. It’s unclear where he came up with the theory that the video and the murder were linked.
In a police analysis of the tip laid out in the ITO, investigators dismiss any connection to the murder.
“This theory is not correct based on previous interception relevant to the murder of Smith,” they write.
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