TORONTO – 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 police have uncovered what appears to be the alleged video. Lisi, he added, was being charged with extortion.
The friend and occasional driver for the mayor made his first court appearance Friday morning and was released on $5,000 bail, with his father Antonio Lisi acting as his surety.
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 media 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.
Features of the house in the background of that photo match that of the Windsor Road home, police allege.
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.
Lisi was already out on bail after being arrested and charged last month with four drug offences, including trafficking marijuana.
Ford told reporters at city hall Thursday that he could not comment because the matter is before the courts. He also said there was no reason for him to resign. In May, Ford said he doesn’t use crack cocaine and couldn’t comment on a video that he hadn’t seen or did not exist.