Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s associates are all pieces of a larger puzzle

Matthew Coutts
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s associates are all pieces of a larger puzzle

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been at the centre of a constantly swirling tempest of controversy since nearly the moment he took office in 2010. The winds blow, bringing with them allegations of drug use, public intoxication and links to drug dealers and convicted criminals, yet not a hair on his head has been mussed.

The recent arrest of his close friend Sandro Lisi and reports that he has been surveilled by a police airplane have been the latest to fall off of his back. He is the Teflon Mayor, it seems.

His conservative agenda secures him more support than his personal life can shed away. Yet political fundraiser Ralph Lean told the National Post this week that Ford’s association with a handful of questionable characters gives him some pause. As friends and associates are swept up in police investigations, Ford’s hands remain clean.

Yet it is only when we piece together the puzzle of those around him that a more complete picture of Toronto’s mayor comes into focus.

Rob Ford

Mayor of Toronto for the past three years, and a councillor for a decade before that, Ford has a history of odd behaviour under his belt. Aside from being allegedly recorded smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe, Ford is said to have been asked to leave a public event, found visibly intoxicated near a street festival and also linked on several occasions to alleged drug dealers and convicted thugs. He once pleaded no contest in the U.S. for refusing a breathalyzer test and admitted he was caught with a joint in his pocket. He says he has smoked tons of marijuana, but has denied being addicted to crack cocaine. He has declined to answer whether he is being investigated by the Toronto police.

Payman Aboodowleh (aka Peter Payman)

Aboodowleh was enlisted, under an alias, by Ford to be a coach on his Don Bosco Eagles high school football team last season. The Globe and Mail first reported that Aboodowleh has a history of violent crimes, including assaulting an officer, which was not revealed to school board administrators. The school board says it was given a false name for its police record check. Aboodowleh told the Globe he is a long-time associate of Alexander "Sandro" Lisi. Following the revelation of his hidden, violent history, the Toronto Catholic District School Board is reviewing its protocol for police checks on volunteers.

Alexander "Sandro" Lisi

Ford’s friend and occasional driver was arrested in Project Brazen 2, an offshoot of Project Traveller, and charged with possessing and trafficking marijuana. The Toronto Star reports that Lisi and David Price launched a search for an alleged video of Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe after reports of its existence were published. The Globe cites sources who say Lisi, who has a criminal history of threatening and assaulting women, has been in Etobicoke drug trade since the 1990s. In March, he reportedly offered drugs in an attempt to recover Ford’s lost cellphone. In reaction to Lisi’s arrest, Ford said his friend was “straight and narrow” and that he had never seen him drink or do drugs.

David Price

Ford’s former football coach, current director of logistics (salary approximately $125,000) is under investigation after breaking a train station door in a fit of rage. Price has a checkered history of running interference for Ford, including intimidating and insulting City Hall reporters. He has been suspended from his post twice. Price was also questioned by police for his role in the search for the Ford tape, that led to the home of Fabio Basso, who was later assaulted. The Ford brothers have defended his hiring by saying “you can’t teach loyalty.” When asked about Price’s current employment status, Ford told reporters, "It's actually no one's business what happens in my office."

Doug Ford

The mayor’s older brother and city councillor, works as a frequent mouthpiece for the mayor and has denied on his behalf various allegations of impropriety. He most recently admitted, but later retracted, that he knew Toronto police were following his brother in a surveillance airplane. The Globe and Mail has also reported that Doug Ford and Price ran a hashish-dealing empire in the 1980s. Ford now says he fears it is the media following his brother in an airplane and flatly rejects the Globe’s allegations of dealing drugs.

Bruno Bellissimo

Another associate of Mayor Ford with a history of running afoul of the law. Reports have confirmed that Bellissimo, along with Lisi, were with Ford at the Garrison Officer's Ball in February. Coun. Paul Ainslie said he asked Ford to leave that party after several people complained about his behaviour. The event led to speculation and reports that the mayor may have a substance abuse problem. In August, Ford was denied late-night access to Bellissimo, who was being held in a Toronto prison on charges of assaulting his parents. The mayor refused to comment about the incident while his brother said he didn’t know who Bellissimo was.

Fabio Basso

An Etobicoke resident with a criminal history and Ford’s former school chum, Basso lives at a reputed drug den where a compromising photo of the mayor was taken. The Basso family was brought to the public spotlight after the notorious photo of Ford with three young men was shot outside their home. Two of the young men were later arrested in Project Traveller. Basso’s home was also the subject of a search warrant in the raid. Basso and his girlfriend were assaulted during a home invasion after the release of the video, around the time other Ford associates were said to be on the hunt for the recording.

Monir Kassim, Muhammad Khattak and Anthony Smith

Three young men who posed for a photograph with Ford outside Basso’s house and, according to the Toronto Star, were with the mayor the night he was recorded smoking from what appeared to be a crack pipe. Smith was later shot dead in downtown Toronto and Khattak was injured in the same attack. Khattak and Kassim were both arrested in Project Traveller – a drugs- and guns-related raid targeting Etobicoke gangs. Khattak’s home was searched and a laptop and cellphones were seized.

Mohamed Siad

Another Etobicoke resident arrested during Project Traveller. The Toronto Star later confirmed Siad was the same person who acted as a broker during negotiations to sell the video of Ford. According to the Globe, his home was also searched as part of Project Traveller. He was attacked while in custody.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair

Blair’s police crew launched Project Traveller, which culminated in a massive pre-dawn raid this summer on several Etobicoke addresses, including a high-rise apartment complex where the mayor had reportedly told staff the video was likely to be found. A number of key players in the Ford controversy were arrested. Blair has declined to confirm one way or the other whether the mayor was tied to the investigation. Sources confirmed to CTV News that wiretapped conversations mentioned the Ford video, well before its possible existence was made public.

Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux

The high-profile homicide detective is the lead investigator in Project Brazen 2, an offshoot of Project Traveller involving Lisi. Lisi was arrested alongside drycleaner Jamshid Bahrami and charged with running a marijuana dealership. It is not clear why Giroux, referred to by Blair as Toronto’s top cop, would be involved in a minor drug bust. Reports that the mayor has been followed by a police surveillance airplane have also been linked to the ongoing investigation.

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