As Mayor Rob Ford faced a downsized office and new details from a police investigation were revealed, a strange new allegation has surfaced – a photo suggesting his new fitness program involves a trainer with a past conviction for distributing steroids.
A Toronto man who appeared in a new photograph with Rob Ford, and who claimed to have worked as a trainer with the mayor, was convicted in 2005 of distributing steroids in the U.S.
- David Price, a long-time family friend of the Fords, is no longer working for Mayor Ford
- More details from police wiretaps during an investigation known as Project Traveller 2 has Mayor Rob Ford mentioned, but his voice is not heard.
Valerio Moscariello, who owns the fitness company Team Body Pro, posted to Twitter and Instagram Tuesday night, a photo of himself standing in front of Mr. Ford with the message "Toronto Mayor Rob Ford joins forces to get in shape with Teambodypro.com."
Mayor Ford has admitted in the past month to smoking crack cocaine and drinking to excess, but is still facing allegations about drug abuse, sexual harassment, drinking and driving, and the company he keeps. In recent months, a number of known associates of Mayor Ford's have been revealed to have a criminal history – most notably, his friend Mr. Lisi, who is currently facing charges for extortion and drug trafficking. A photograph that surfaced in May showed Mayor Ford standing with three young men: Two of them were arrested in June as part of a drugs and gun investigation, and the third was gunned down in March in downtown Toronto.
A man who answered Mr. Moscariello's phone Wednesday morning and identified himself as an assistant named "Peter" told The Globe that the photograph was taken as a joke, and that Mr. Moscariello is not training the mayor.
"As far as I know, there's no training him," he said. Mr. Moscariello has since deleted the tweet, and his account.
But the same day, he told The National Post that he had worked with the mayor as recently as Tuesday evening.
"He's got the discipline and he's got the drive. I really think he can lose the weight, but he has to give it his all. I want him to give me 100 per cent, not even just 99 per cent," he told the Post.
The mayor's office, which was reshuffling staff, does not currently have a spokesperson, and was not available for comment Wednesday.
According to the United States Attorney's Office, Mr. Moscariello pleaded guilty in August, 2005 for possessing anabolic steroids, and for operating a website for the purpose of distributing steroids.
Mr. Moscariello's biography, posted on his website, says that he has been a trainer for about 23 years and has taken part in professional bodybuilding competitions since 1993. He also operates a website selling fitness clothing and accessories.
The mayor downsizes
David Price, a long-time friend of the Ford family, no longer works for the city, a spokeswoman for the city confirmed Wednesday morning.
Mr. Price was informed Tuesday that he did not have a place with either Mayor Rob Ford or with the newly expanded office of the deputy mayor and cleaned out his office, a city hall source confirmed.
The mayor has also picked a new chief of staff, Dan Jacobs, a former radio producer of the Ford brother's weekly radio show who joined his office earlier this year.
Mr. Jacobs is one of nine staff who chose to stay with Mr. Ford, rather than work in the expanded office of the deputy mayor after many of Mayor Ford's powers were transferred away from him earlier this week.
Mr. Price became a controversial figure in the mayor's office after it was revealed in a May, 2013 Globe and Mail story that he had been a part of an alleged drug business, reportedly run by the mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, in the 1980s. When asked about Mr. Price's role in the mayor's office at the time, Doug Ford told The Globe "you can't teach loyalty." According to a police document, Mayor Ford's former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, told investigators he believed that Mr. Price was being paid "$130,000 a year. It should probably be around $70,000."
New details sought from police investigation
Rob Ford is mentioned, but never actually heard in wiretap conversations during a police investigation targeting Mayor Ford and his friend alleged drug dealer Alessandro Lisi.
The wiretap conversations were released Wednesday afternoon, after Superior Court Justice Ian Nordheimer ordered the disclosure of more previously-redacted information from a nearly-500-page police document. Lawyers representing a number of media organizations including The Globe and Mail have been fighting in court for this information to be disclosed.
Also released Wednesday was more information on Project Traveller, a drugs and gang probe that focused on a group of high-rise apartments in northwest Toronto, and culminated in dozens of arrests on June 13. According to the newly-released information, wiretap intercepts from Project Traveller indicated that Mr. Lisi might be trafficking drugs.
Mr. Lisi was later arrested in a related Toronto Police operation, known as Project Brazen 2, which targeted both the 35-year-old occasional driver for Mr. Ford, and the mayor himself. Mr. Lisi is currently facing charges including extortion in relation to a video that allegedly shows Mayor Ford smoking crack cocaine, and trafficking marijuana.
The wiretap intercepts for Project Traveller, of which there are thousands, concluded June 14 – the day after the raids. Several people connected with Rob Ford, including two men who appeared in an infamous photo with the mayor, were arrested in that raid.
Public portions of the document had already revealed that Mr. Lisi and Mayor Ford met frequently, at all hours of the day and night, including in unusual places like school parking lots, gas stations, and "secluded" areas of parks. The pair was also in frequent phone contact, sometimes speaking or messaging up to eighteen times in a single day, with a flurry of phone activity in the days following the report of the crack video.
The document has also revealed that former staffers from the mayor's office alleged to police that the mayor frequently sent them to purchase alcohol, made vulgar comments about former female staffers and a female City Hall guard, and that he appeared at City Hall and official events intoxicated.
In the police interviews, former staffers also told police that they believed Mayor Ford had abused drugs, driven after drinking, and brought a suspected prostitute to City Hall.
With reports from Renata D'Aliesio