For the fifth year in a row, incarcerated former Detroit teenage drug dealer and illegally-used underage federal informant Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe organized his annual holiday food drive to aid the needy in his old far eastside neighborhood. From behind bars, the 47-year old Wershe, the longest serving non-violent juvenile offender in the state’s prison system going on three decades as a guest of the government because of cocaine found at a routine traffic when he was 17, raised over $3,000 worth of turkeys, hams, potatoes, pies and canned fruit and vegetables and had them delivered on the day before Christmas Eve to his childhood church, Christ Our Savior, located near the intersection of Harper and Dickerson where he grew up.

“I’ll try to do everything I can to give back to the community I was raised in no matter where I am,” said Wershe in a phone interview from prison. “I want people to see, hey if this guy can do this from where he is, maybe we can do a little something too. If doing this makes it a little easier for other people to do something, you know, pay it forward, then we’ve done our job.”

Wershe’s painfully tragic story has been in the national headlines the past two years, the result of a 2014 on-line E-book penned by New York journalist Evan Hughes that caused a feeding frenzy in Hollywood over the desire to adapt Wershe’s life as an FBI-sponsored mole from the ages of 14 to 16 for the big screen. Three separate major film projects got off the ground in the subsequent months, with one of them, a star-studded production at Sony Pictures-imprint Studio 8, intending to start shooting in March with Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey leading the cast.

Shockingly, Wershe introduction to the narcotics industry came as a paid FBI informant, recruited at just 14 in the summer of 1984, fresh out of junior high school, and instructed to infiltrate some of the Motor City’s most powerful and dangerous urban drug gangs. The controversial relationship between the savvy teenager and the ethically-compromised government task force he was employed by finally came to an end in late 1986 after close to $50,000 handed over to their prized pupil and enough intelligence gathered to bring a string of ensuing high-profile busts.

Wershe was arrested in the late afternoon hours of May 22, 1987 when a rental car he was a passenger in was pulled over in front of his grandmother’s house for a rolling stop at a stop sign and after a search of the neighborhood police found 8 kilos of cocaine buried underneath a porch two blocks away from the vehicle, charging the 17-year old with no prior convictions on his record under the now-defunct “650 lifer law,” which brought automatic life prison sentences without the possibility if convicted of possession with intent to sell 650 grams or more of a controlled substance. In January 1988, Wershe was found guilty at a three-ring circus of a trial and hasn’t tasted freedom since. He went back to work with the FBI in prison and helped the government build the largest corrupt cop case in Detroit history (1993’s Operation Backbone) as well as take down the murderous Best Friends Gang, but it hasn’t made a difference.

The 650 lifer law got tossed off the books in 1998, opening the door for parole eligibility – his three times in front of the Michigan Parole Board have all been unsuccessful. Earlier this month, the parole board scheduled Wershe for a February interview, the first step in the parole process. He last saw the board in 2012.

 

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