Massive Toronto police raid targets gang operating out of apartment tied to Rob Ford crack video scandal

Twenty-eight people believed to be connected to a drug- and gun-running enterprise were arrested in Toronto and Windsor, Ont., as part of a massive investigation focused on a gang allegedly operating out of an apartment complex tied to Mayor Rob Ford's drug video allegations.

Toronto Police Chief William Blair announced on Thursday the results of Project Traveller, a year-long investigation into an Etobicoke gang known as the Dixon Bloods, or Dixon Goonies.

A total of 43 arrests have been made since the investigation began in June 2012, culminating in today’s series of pre-dawn raids in Toronto and the border city of Windsor, where guns were allegedly being smuggled in from the United States.

More than 800 officers were involved in the raids and executed 39 search warrants. Nineteen people were arrested in Toronto and nine more were arrested in Windsor. Police in Alberta were also credited with participating in the investigation.

At the heart of the raids was an apartment complex at 320 Dixon Rd., where two 17th floor units had previously been connected to the storage of an alleged video of an inebriated Ford smoking from a pipe and making off-colour comments.

The Toronto Star and Gawker reported last month that they were offered a copy of the video in exchange for a “six figure” payment. The revelation set off a series of events that rocked the mayor’s office and reportedly led Ford to tell staff not to worry about the video because he knew where it was being held.

Ford publicly stated the video did not exist and that he does not do crack cocaine.

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CTV News reported on Thursday that wiretaps used in Project Traveller captured discussions about that video weeks before its existence was made public. The network cites highly-placed sources who confirmed police were investigating its existence before the allegations were public.

In discussing the raids, Blair declined to comment on whether Ford was connected to the investigation. He said methodology used by investigators and any evidence they had gathered would be presented in a court of law.

Ford thanked police for their hard work on Thursday, adding that he had not been briefed previous to the massive raids. He said he didn't know anything about the raids, claiming his "cable was out."

The Toronto Star reports that police also searched the home of one young man pictured with Ford in photograph taken outside a nearby home reputed to be a drug den and tied to an attempt to sell news organizations a video of the mayor allegedly smoking from a crack pipe. A box of documents and other seized evidence, including a laptop computer, was wheeled out of the home.

Muhammad Khattak had been shot during a downtown attack in March that left another man, Anthony Smith, dead. A man who had recently travelled to Alberta was arrested by Ft. McMurray police late last month and charged in his murder.

Dept. Chief Mark Saunders said that 40 guns were seized in Thursday’s raids, as well as more than $3 million in narcotics including cocaine, hashish and marijuana. Some $572,000 in cash was also seized by police.

Police also said a number of murder investigations were tied to Project Traveller and that the goal was to make the Etobicoke community safe from drug dealers and gang members. Blair added he believed the busts had effectively shut down a pipe line of guns running from the United States through the Windsor border and into Toronto, and beyond.