Toronto

Rob Ford crack video let loose flurry of heated warnings and frantic phone calls among mayor's associates

Court testimony that can only now be made public recounts how close associates of the late former Toronto mayor Rob Ford set off on a frantic hunt for the video showing him smoking crack cocaine in the hours after its existence became public.

Publication ban lifted on key details in extortion case involving Ford's inner circle

Court case ends for former driver Sandro Lisi; evidence made public 1:17

Rob Ford's inner circle set off on a frantic hunt for the video showing him smoking crack cocaine in the hours after its existence became public, according to court testimony that is only now seeing the light.

Ford passed away in March after a long battle with cancer. But a court case involving the video and his friend and occasional driver, Alexander (Sandro) Lisi, continued until an extortion charge against Lisi was dropped today

​Evidence presented during pre-trial hearings but kept under a publication ban until now shows how far Ford's inner circle went in May 2013 to track down the damning video after it was first reported on. 

"You see the heat on Dixon, bro? It's gonna get worse, bro," Lisi allegedly said over the phone, just 36 hours after news broke that someone was trying to sell the video.

"Tell all your boys it's going to get worse and worse. All summer, bro, until that f--king phone gets back. The whole place is going to get lit right up," Lisi was alleged to have said in a recorded phone conversation.

The call was part of a series of wiretaps presented as evidence against him at his preliminary hearing last year.

The Crown dropped an extortion charge against Alexander (Sandro) Lisi, centre, on Thursday. Lisi was Rob Ford's friend and occasional driver during his mayoralty. He was charged in 2013 in connection with his efforts to recover the infamous crack video. (Michelle Cheung/CBC)

Lisi was a friend of Ford's who occasionally chauffered the former mayor to events. He was charged in October 2013 with extortion for making what police alleged were threatening telephone calls while trying to track down the video.

The Crown dropped that charge Thursday, telling a judge the case against Lisi had weakened because the two men he was accused of threatening, Liban Siyad and Mohamed Siad, didn't co-operate during the preliminary hearing.

New details from the preliminary hearing can now be reported, including testimony from Ford's closest allies.

Mayor's brother 'shocked' over video

Ford is seen smoking crack cocaine in the video from 2013 that touched off a furor then but only became public Thursday.

The hearing heard how Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, was at the offices of Deco Labels, his family business in Etobicoke, when he first saw online reports about the crack video.

According to court testimony, Doug Ford, who did not appear at the hearing, was "pretty shaken up" and picked up the phone to call the mayor the night of May 16, 2013.

"[The conversation] didn't go well," stated David Price, a childhood friend who had recently been hired on to the mayor's staff.

Price testified that he and Doug Ford handed the phone back and forth during multiple phone calls, asking the mayor for answers. Price said Rob Ford refused to deny or acknowledge the existence of a video.

The mayor sounded "inebriated," Price recounted, saying Rob Ford became more irritable and less coherent as the night went on.

The next morning, Price said, he went on a "fact finding" mission. He testified he placed phone calls and visited the house at 15 Windsor Rd. in the city's northwest where, it turns out, the infamous crack video was shot — a home police have described in court documents as a "crack house."

Price testified he knocked on the door and was met by Elena Basso, who lived there, and who allegedly cursed and threatened him, waving a cordless phone.

Basso, who also testified at the hearing, has since told prosecutors that she is the main voice overheard in the crack video with Rob Ford.

Flurry of phone calls

As the scandal surrounding the video broke, Ford denied the video existed and told reporters he'd never smoked crack cocaine. He would later admit to abusing drugs and alcohol. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)
Police tracked a whirlwind of telephone calls made in the hours after the scandal first hit, including eight between Price and Lisi's phones. Evidence also shows 11 calls between Lisi and Ford.  

Wiretaps recorded numerous calls by Lisi to Liban Siyad, who has in the past been connected to the Dixon Bloods gang.

Transcripts of the wiretaps showed infighting among Siyad and his friends over the ensuing media storm and police investigation.

"They're looking for me. They're going to kill me," Siyad laments to a friend in one recording.

"Who?" the friend asks.  

"Rob Ford and the others," Siyad explains. "Then my boy… my boy keeps on blinging off my phone. I get a text message, guess [what] the man texted me? All rats die."

Siyad called the man believed to have filmed the video, Mohamed Siad, less than 24 hours after the story broke. According to a police recording, Siyad complained that Rob Ford's "driver" was looking for him.

"Squash this shit," Siyad pleaded over the phone. "The man is gonna bring feds to my house, bro. Please tell him: drop this shit."

"It's gonna die in a day," Siad replied, playing down the furor over the video. "He knows you never made it. He seen me make it," Siad told Siyad.

The video also enraged Basso, who is overheard on police wiretaps speaking to Siyad.

"The f--king goof did it at my house," Basso fumed. "Now I got Rob's f--king people and cops coming here every f--king day."

At the hearing for Lisi's case, Basso told Justice Mara Greene that Rob Ford was "family" to her, and that she was one of "Rob's people."

Basso wiped away tears in the courtroom as she described how she was afraid to leave her home in the days and weeks following the scandal due to police visits and reporters camped outside her house.

Outright denials

Mohamed Siad bragged about filming the mayor smoking crack in a second video. In court, Siad refused to answer many of the Crown's questions.

Police eventually found the Ford crack video on a laptop belonging to Mohamed Siad, along with a second "selfie" video that appears to show him bragging about catching the mayor smoking crack.

This video is now also public.

Siad was called to testify at the preliminary hearing for Lisi back in the spring of 2015.  

Siad told the court he didn't recall how either video was taken, and couldn't remember whether he'd owned a laptop. He also denied knowing Lisi, Rob Ford or any of the household members at 15 Windsor Rd.

At one point there was muffled laughter in the courtroom at Old City Hall after Siad said, "I don't recall" before the Crown had finished asking a question.

The judge instructed Siad to wait until the prosecutor had asked a question before answering.

Siad, who was arrested as part of a sweep of gang suspects in 2013 known as Project Traveller, was sentenced in July 2015 to eight years in jail for trafficking guns and drugs.

Rob Ford did not appear at the preliminary hearing, citing health issues.