The still hard-to-fathom saga of 1980s Detroit teen drug-world prodigy Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe has been going on for 30 years and will soon be brought to the big screen in the upcoming Matthew McConaughey eponymously-titled film. Newcomer Richie Merritt plays Wershe in his movie debut and McConaughey plays his dad. The magnetic and street smart Wershe went from graduating eighth grade to top-secret government mole to 16-year old narcotics-trafficking wunderkind to political prisoner all in a four-year period at the height of the country’s crack epidemic.

For the last three decades, the 48-year old Wershe has fought tirelessly for his freedom, even going back to work for authorities from his prison cell and aiding in the building of two historic cases. Incarcerated since he was 18, he is currently the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in the American justice system. Weshe is in the home stretch of his time behind bars and could be released before the end of the year.

McConaughey and Merritt’s White Boy Rick movie hits theatres nationwide September 21. Filmmaker Shawn Rech’s documentary White Boy is available on ITunes and a number of streaming platforms right now.


June 1984 – A federal drug task force comprised of the FBI, DEA and Detroit Police Department recruits 14-year old Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe, Jr. to be a mole in the treacherous Motor City crack trade, tasked with infiltrating the infamous Curry Brothers Gang. Wershe quickly ingratiates himself to eastside crime lord Johnny (Lil’ Man) Curry, who is married to the sexy, sophisticated and curvaceous Cathy Volson, a favorite niece of Mayor Coleman Young. Shockingly, his father, Richard Wershe, Sr., an arms dealer and neighborhood street hustler, who had previously been a government informant, signs off on the operation and shares in the federal stipend.

September 1984 – Wershe starts ninth grade at Detroit Denby High School, his father’s alma mater.

November 1984 – Wershe is shot by Curry Brothers Gang member John (Johnny Slim) Walker, possibly for the Currys’ belief that he is an informant. Although he almost dies on the operating table at the hospital, he agrees to report the shooting as an accident, file an insurance claim and rejoin the Curry Brothers Gang.

December 1984 – Wershe drops out of high school (he had transferred to Detroit Finney High School after a confrontation with a teacher at Denby) and goes to work for the drug task force full time.

February 1985 – Curry Brothers Gang member Leon Lucas, the gang’s main “mixologist,” responsible for cutting most of the gang’s drug shipments, is raided by law enforcement resulting in the seizure of narcotics and cash.

April 14, 1985 – Wershe, 15, is sent by the task force to Las Vegas to attend the Marvelous Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns championship boxing match, provided a fake ID, first-class airplane and hotel fare and $1,500 spending cash. The goal of the trip was to try and establish Wershe’s perceived independence from the Curry Brothers Gang (also in attendance), while at the same time directing him to try and uncover the Curry brothers’ wholesale drug supplier.

April 16, 1985 – Wershe and the Curry Brothers Gang return to Detroit from Las Vegas the day after Hagler knocked Hearns out in the third round, with Johnny Curry angered by the fact that Leon Lucas failed to deliver on his promise of hotel reservations and fight tickets as a means of making amends for the money and drugs lost in the February raid.

April 29, 1985 – Damion Lucas, Leon Lucas’ 13-year old nephew, is accidentally killed in a drive-by shooting at Leon’s westside Detroit residence.

April 30, 1985 – Wershe provides intelligence to the task force that Johnny Curry ordered his henchman to do the drive-by shooting at Leon Lucas’ house in retaliation for the Las Vegas debacle.

May 1985 – Wershe tells the task force he was present with Johnny Curry when Curry engaged in a phone conversation with then Detroit Police Department Homicide Commander Gil Hill, known for playing the role of Eddie Murphy’s boss in the smash-hit Beverly Hills Cop movie trilogy, where Hill agrees to accept a $10,000 payoff to steer the Damion Lucas homicide investigation away from the Curry Brothers Gang. Subsequently another Lucas drug-world associate named LaKeas Davis is arrested in the case, but the charges are eventually dropped.

September 1986 – After more than two years on the government payroll and collecting an estimated $40,000 in compensation, Wershe and the federal drug task force break ties. The charismatic, business-savvy 17-year old immediately decides to continue on in the narcotics industry – minus a paycheck from Uncle Sam – and attempts to become a wholesale cocaine supplier on his own.

November 1986 – Wershe and crew member Robert (Scorpio) Ward are stopped by DEA agents getting off a commercial airline flight arriving at Detroit Metro Airport from Miami and Ward is arrested for possession of two kilos of cocaine. Ward is convicted and given a six-year prison sentence.

March 11, 1987 – Wershe’s partner in his wholesale operation Charles (7 Mile Chuck) Lewis is arrested for drug offenses and sent to prison.

March 21, 1987 – Wershe and his best friend and right-hand man Stephen (Freaky Steve) Roussell are arrested in a DPD raid at Roussell’s stash house on Hayes Street on the far eastside of Detroit where cocaine, automatic weapons, cash counting machines and bullet proof vests are seized. They are charged in state court with possessing 2.5 grams of coke, which amounted to approximately $200 in street value at the time.

April 2, 1987 – The entire Curry Brothers Gang is indicted on federal drug and racketeering charges. One of the predicate offenses included in the indictment accuses Johnny Curry of ordering the 1985 murder of rival dope man Eric Dunson. Curry cops a plea and is sentenced to 20 years in prison.

April 6, 1987 – Wershe and Johnny Curry’s wife, Cathy Volsan, the Mayor’s beautiful 24-year old niece, begin a torrid romance that puts Wershe in the crosshairs of enemies on both sides of the law and causes a fervor in the already-swirling media buzz surrounding his ascent.

May 22, 1987 – Wershe is pulled over by a DPD patrol unit in a routine traffic stop outside his grandmother’s house and after a fight breaks out on the front lawn involving him, his dad, his sister and the cops, he’s arrested for possessing eight kilos of cocaine found stashed more than a block away underneath a neighbor’s porch. The state charges the 17-year old as an adult under the now-defunct “650 Lifer Law,” bringing with it a sentence of mandatory life in prison without parole if convicted.

July 18, 1987 – Out on bail awaiting trial, Wershe turns 18 years old.

September 22, 1987 – Freaky Steve Roussell, Wershe’s closest friend and aid-de-camp in the dope game, is killed by the Best Friends Gang, gunned down with an Uzi by Best Friends boss Reggie (Rocking Reggie) Brown as he slept on the couch of his eastside of Detroit residence. Roussell’s cousin and Wershe crew member Patrick (Little Pat) McLeod, is wounded in the attack. Roussell and Brown had been feuding over a girl for several months.

October 13, 1987 – Wershe and crew member Robert (Bobby the Polack) Williamson are arrested by DEA agents with 11 pounds of cocaine stashed in a car trunk as they arrive at customer Brian McClendon’s house to meet McClendon’s newborn son.

January 4, 1988 – Amid an intense media firestorm drawing reporters from around the country, Wershe’s “650” trial begins in Wayne County Recorder’s Court in downtown Detroit. Wershe’s attorneys don’t enter evidence of his work with the federal drug task force into the trial record, although his father speaks to the press about it. Wershe, Sr.’s allegations are quickly denied by the FBI.

January 14, 1988 – Werhse is found guilty by the jury at his “650” trial and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, per the sentencing statute’s mandatory guidelines. His case inspires a pop-culture narrative that spawns storylines in television shows like 21 Jump Street and Miami Vice, a character in an Elmore Leonard novel and a shout-out in a Kid Rock song.

January 15, 1988 – Richard Wershe, Sr. is arrested by the ATF for selling silencers.

April 14, 1988 – Wershe is acquitted by a jury at a trial in Wayne County Recorder’s Court in his case connected to the Hayes Street raid back in March 1987.

April 23, 1988 – Richard Wershe, Sr. is convicted by a jury at trial in his silencer case and sentenced to six years in federal prison.

See Part 2 of the White Boy Rick Timeline here.

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