TORONTO – The arrest of then-mayor Rob Ford’s driver and a dry cleaner followed months of intense police surveillance that involved officers, aerial spotting, electronic tracking and even a camera mounted on a street pole, an Ontario court heard Monday.
In the end, police nabbed Alexander (Sandro) Lisi carrying $900 in cash they say was used by an undercover cop to buy a half-kilo of marijuana, and a fake pop with 6.4 grams of pot in it that police said belonged to Lisi.
Ford, who would later admit to smoking crack cocaine, was spotted with Lisi on numerous occasions but was never arrested or charged.
Police arrested Lisi outside a west-end dry cleaners owned by Jamshid (Jay) Bahrami on Oct. 1, 2013, and charged both men with trafficking. Lisi is also charged with simple possession of marijuana.
Det.-Const. Daryl Bell, who helped arrest Lisi, testified that his professional standards team became involved in tailing Ford’s friend in June 2013 because they believed he had swapped drugs for the return of the mayor’s cellphone earlier that year.
“Obviously, it involved his association with the mayor,” Bell testified of the interest in Lisi.
“Our goal was not to find out what the mayor was up to; our goal was to find out what Mr. Lisi was up to.”
After weeks of trying, the undercover cop was finally able to orchestrate a marijuana buy from Bahrami – with the drugs apparently coming from Lisi.
Bell told court that Lisi arrived at the plaza only after the deal had already happened inside the cleaners. Lisi had the cash bundle in his front pants pocket when arrested outside.
“I ended up counting it in front of him,” Bell said. “The amount ended up being $900.”
Bell also said he only discovered the fake can of ginger ale on the ground about a half hour after the arrest when he kicked it and something didn’t sound right. Two similar but empty cans were found in the Range Rover Lisi was driving.
Police also found a copy of Bahrami’s licence to possess medicinal marijuana tucked behind the visor of the vehicle.
Bahrami’s lawyer, Jacob Stilman, got Bell to concede that his team never saw any suspicious activity at the cleaners, or anything to suggest the store owner was dealing drugs.
“Nothing that really stood out, no,” Bell said.
“You never observed a procession of dubious or suspicious characters going in or coming out?” Stilman said.
“No,” Bell said.
Lisi also faces separate charges of extortion related to trying to retrieve the infamous Ford ‘crack video.’ He has yet to stand trial in that case.