TORONTO – Police believe they overheard people on wiretaps during a gang investigation saying Toronto Mayor Rob Ford offered $5,000 and a car in exchange for a video, according to a newly released police document.
The document contains police evidence from wiretaps on which alleged gang members and men arrested in a sweeping guns and drugs investigation talk with familiarity about the mayor and suggest they had supplied him with drugs.
Toronto police were in the midst of that large investigation, known was Project Traveller, when the mayor's name surfaced on the intercepts in March and April, police allege.
The document, containing allegations not proven in court, suggests some of the Project Traveller targets also talked about using images of Ford using drugs to blackmail him. They were also heard saying they ``love and respect Rob Ford,'' but have evidence of him in a lot of messed up situations and don't want to say anything, the document says.
One man says on the wiretaps that he has many pictures of Ford ``doing the hezza,'' and another man suggests those pictures would be worth a lot, says the document. Hezza can be used as a slang term for heroin.
The mayor's name allegedly emerged on the wiretaps about two months before the Toronto Star and U.S. website Gawker first reported that alleged drug dealers were shopping around a video that appeared to show Ford smoking crack cocaine.
Information that police gathered from those wiretaps was in the remaining portions of a document filed in the drug case of Ford's friend Alexander Lisi.
Portions that were previously released showed former staffers alleged the mayor was intoxicated at work, drank while driving and associated with suspected prostitutes.
The last portions to be made public summarize an intercepted conversation police allege they heard on March 27. Investigators heard two men talking about plans to sell a tape and quoting Ford as saying ``I'll give you 5,000 and a car,'' police allege in the document.
Mohamed Siad, who police believe was trying to sell the so-called crack video, said during the conversation that he would meet with him and ask for ``150,'' which police believed meant $150,000, the document says.
The other man warned Siad that wouldn't be wise, as he would be putting himself in jeopardy, the document says. Siad, like most of the men monitored, was arrested as part of Project Traveller, and was later stabbed in jail. Police do not connect the stabbing to the video in the document.
Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, told television station CP24 the latest allegations are baseless.
``If we have the mayor's voice on an intercept I think he should comment on something,'' he said. ``But when so-called gang members, alleged gang members are saying whatever they're saying, you know as a lawyer there's no factual or legal foundation.''
There comes a time when overkill becomes the predominate theme, and when it comes to the Ford saga, we are here, Toronto criminal lawyer Marcy Segal tells AdvocateDaily.com.
"The latest information released from the ITO is simply unsubstantiated, hearsay and innuendo," says Segal. "What Ford did yesterday, finally, was take his lawyer's advice - don't stoop to their level, rise above and saying nothing can speak volumes."
Perhaps Ford's brother is sincere when he says the mayor has already done some groundwork to rehabilitate his reputation, Segal adds, "and the allegations against those charged in Project Traveller are simply that – allegations.
"I wouldn't suggest that since they are gang members, they ought not to be believed," says Segal. "However, without hearing Rob Ford's voice confirming the recent allegations on the wires, we cannot give credence to what the others talked about. It is time to move forward. Yesterday's attempt to denounce and embarrass Ford has backfired, in my opinion."
It is clear that no criminal charges are forthcoming against Ford, says Segal.
"Did he do heroin? There is no witness saying he did, so the presumption of innocence applies," says Segal. "Did he try to buy the video? There is no witness saying he did, so the presumption of innocence applies."
Police also heard on the wiretaps that Ford had his phone stolen or lost at a home on Windsor Road they believe to be a crack house, and that Lisi was trying to get it back, police allege.
Lisi is facing a charge of extortion, as police allege he threatened both Siad and Liban Siyad, who was also arrested in Project Traveller, in attempts to get his hands on the video.
Police intercepted a phone call on April 20 between Siyad and Abdullahi Harun in which Harun allegedly told Siyad to go to the house on Windsor Road because Ford was there and wanted drugs, the document says. Siyad denied being the voice on the intercepts, the document says.
Harun was shot on the 17th floor of an apartment building at 320 Dixon Rd., five days after the media reports about the video of the mayor appearing to smoke crack cocaine were published.
Ford staffer David Price told police he received an anonymous call a few days prior in which he was told drug dealers were trying to sell the video from a unit on the 17th floor of that address, according to the document.
The document says the investigation was ongoing and does not list a motive for the shooting.
Investigators also allege they heard on the wiretaps that Lisi threatened to ``put the heat on'' the gang if he didn't get Ford's phone back and that the alleged gang members said they would not tolerate Lisi's threats because they had a picture of Ford ``on a pipe,'' which police believed meant a crack pipe.
Another cellphone of interest in the investigation was that of Anthony Smith. Smith is one of three people posing with the mayor in a notorious photo that police believe was taken outside the alleged crack house.
He was shot and killed on March 28 and police were looking into the possibility that his cellphone was stolen at the time of his murder, the document says.
Price told police that he had received an anonymous call shortly after media reports were published about the so-called crack video from someone saying Smith was killed for his phone, which contained the video, the document says.
That is not true, police state in the documents, based on other evidence police have collected on Smith's murder. He was killed in an altercation outside a nightclub.
The police investigation, dubbed Project Brazen 2, was launched to probe allegations that a video showed the mayor smoking crack cocaine, though the mayor was never charged.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said the case was reviewed by investigators and the Crown.
``Where reasonable probable grounds to lay a charge exist charges have been laid,'' Blair said. ``But that's up to the investigators in consultation with the Crown.''
Ford denied the media reports about the video for about five months, then admitted he had smoked crack, likely in a ``drunken stupor.''
Ford has denied consorting with prostitutes and insists he is not an alcoholic or drug addict.
City council stripped him of most of his powers last month, but the mayor has said he'll run in the next municipal elections in October, 2014.
© 2013 The Canadian Press
- With files from AdvocateDaily.com