During high school, Mayor Rob Ford was "close" to Fabio Basso, an Etobicoke man whose family home has emerged as the apparent backdrop of a now-famous photo of the mayor, according to a former neighbour.
"Him and Rob Ford always showed up for the hockey games. And that was about it – just buddies, you know," said Brent Saragosa, a former high-school hockey captain for Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School.
"Yeah, they were close growing up, sure," Mr. Saragosa told The Globe in an interview, explaining that Mr. Ford and Mr. Basso attended games together as teenagers even though they went to different high schools.
Explaining that his younger brother Edward was also part of that circle of friends, Mr. Saragosa added that Mr. Ford attended Edward's funeral two years ago.
Mr. Basso has a criminal history. Court records show he was caught stealing Blu-ray DVDs and fabric softener from a Walmart last year. His sister, Elena Johnson, 52, pleaded guilty in 2011 to trafficking cocaine. Both grew up and currently live at 15 Windsor Rd., where, two weeks ago, a man forced his way into the house and assaulted two people with a weapon.
Questions about the relationship of Mr. Ford, 44, and Mr. Basso, 45, surfaced this week after the Basso home in Etobicoke was revealed as the likely location of a now-famous photograph of the mayor.
In that photo, Mr. Ford appears to be standing in front of a garage at night, embracing three young men in their 20s. (Two of the men are believed to have been shot, one fatally, outside a nightclub in the weeks after the photo was taken.)
This image of Toronto's mayor reaped international publicity after it was supplied to two media organizations by unnamed drug dealers who also claimed to have obtained a camera-phone video of Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine in the same neighbourhood. The custodians of the video are said to have wanted to sell it for $200,000.
This video has not surfaced publicly since the first reports about it a month ago, even though some of the mayor's aides are reported to have told police they got a tip that the video might have been in an apartment on the 17th floor of a building on Dixon Road that is about 300 metres from the Basso house.
Mr. Ford, Toronto's mayor since 2010, has said he does not smoke crack and that the alleged video does not exist. He has never explained how he might know the individuals in the photograph, nor has he spoken about where the photo may have been taken.
The Basso family is not speaking to reporters. Their home sits in a neighbourhood just a few hundred metres from the Ford family printing company and the Don Bosco school, where Mr. Ford coached football for a decade.
Earlier this week, a Globe and Mail reporter went there to ask Ms. Johnson about the family's relationship with Mr. Ford. She responded by making sign-language gestures and whispering, "I can't hear." The previous day, she threatened to call the police to deal with reporters at the residence.
Mr. Basso's criminal record also includes a 2005 conviction for possession of an unauthorized weapon. He also has an unpaid $150 drug-possession fine dating back to 1988.