One of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s associates, a friend who sometimes drove the mayor around in a black Range Rover, has been arrested on drug-related charges.
The Toronto Star reports that Alexander “Sandro” Lisi was arrested Tuesday evening in a raid in the west-Toronto neighbourhood of Etobicoke. Lisi was arrested at a dry cleaning shop along with the shop owner, say reports.
A news release from Toronto police says Lisi, 35, was charged with traffic in marijuana, possession of proceeds of crime, possession of marijuana, and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
A second man, Jamshid Bahrami, 47, was also arrested after police executed a search warrant. He was charged with possession of cocaine, three counts of traffic in marijuana and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
According to reports from the Star Lisi, along with Ford’s staff member and long-time friend David Price, attempted to retrieve a video of the mayor that emerged in May, which is alleged to show Ford smoking crack-cocaine and making racially charged statements. Ford has refused to comment on the video, telling reporters in May: “I can’t comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.”
Ford spoke briefly to reporters during a press conference in an Esso gas station parking lot near his home Wednesday afternoon.
“He’s a friend,” Ford said of Lisi. “He’s a good guy and I don’t throw my friends under the bus. I’ve never once seen the guy drink. I’ve never seen him do drugs. I’m surprised.”
Ford refused to say more about his relationship with Lisi, saying the matter was “before the courts.” He did, however, take aim at journalists who had been outside the Ford family home seeking a comment from the mayor since news of Lisi’s arrest broke. “Don’t come to my front door again,” Ford told the journalists.
After Ford took three questions, the mayor’s handlers lead him away.
Ford may escape some of the pressure to comment further on the matter, at least until next week. He’s skipping town to head to Austin, Texas to learn more about the music business in that city. The fact-finding mission goes over Thursday and Friday.
The mayor’s exact relationship with Lisi—who has a prior criminal record, including an assault conviction—is unclear. In August, Ford told the Toronto Sun in August that Lisi is “a great guy and he is straight as an arrow.”
Lisi appeared in a Toronto courtroom Wednesday afternoon. He was released on $5,000 bail.