Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Faces Widening Criminal Investigation

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Toronto police chief Bill Blair on Wednesday asked the Ontario Provincial Police to oversee a probe into the celebrity politician's association with the city's drug trade.

TORONTO -- Rob Ford may be hooked on celebrity fame, but the criminal investigation into the Toronto mayor has widened.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair on Wednesday asked the Ontario Provincial Police to oversee Project Brazen 2, an ongoing probe of Ford and his associations with alleged drug dealer Alessandro Lisi.

The entry of the OPP into the investigation comes a week after Ford dared Blair to arrest him after a lengthy investigation by Toronto police officers that included around-the-clock surveillance.

"As discussed in our recent phone call, I am writing to make a formal request that the Ontario Provincial Police assume an oversight role with respect to Project Brazen 2," Blair wrote to OPP commissioner Chris Lewis in a letter made public Wednesday.

"As you are aware, Project Brazen 2 arose from the Toronto Police Service's year-long Project Traveller, focusing on organized crime, violence, guns and drugs," Blair added in a statement issued Wednesday.

The police chief said he was handing over responsibility for the criminal investigation of Ford to "avoid the distractions that have assumed such recent prominence." Ford appeared earlier this week on Jimmy Kimmel Live! during a Los Angeles visit.

Project Brazen 2 got started after Gawker, the U.S. gossip site, and the Toronto Star newspaper last year revealed the existence of a smartphone video that allegedly portrayed the Toronto mayor inhaling from a glass pipe.

Ford later admitted to smoking crack cocaine and "drunken stupors," admissions that led to his current global celebrity.

The mayor on Wednesday afternoon told reporters at City Hall that Blair was "just playing politics" as his widening investigation comes during a re-election campaign now picking up pace ahead of an October vote.