July 21, 2021 – After being used by the federal government for decades to make busts and then hung out to dry and left for dead in prison, Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe, Jr. is calling the chickens home to roost. He’s tasting freedom for the first time since the 1980s and he wants reparations.
The former Detroit teenage drug dealing prodigy, who was started off in the crack game at the behest of a federal narcotics task force at the age of 14, filed a $100,000,000 federal civil lawsuit in Michigan this week against the FBI, the DEA, the Detroit Police Department, the City of Detroit and the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, as well several retired members of law enforcement allegedly involved. The suit claims those agencies, agents and municipalities concocted and carried out the highly immoral and unethical plan to recruit and pay a fresh-faced Caucasian adolescent to infiltrate unsuspecting African-American-run drug empires on the Motor City’s eastside well before he was legally allowed to drive a car.
According to Wershe, Jr.’s pleadings in the case, his civil rights were violated by the Feds taking advantage of him as a young, naive teenager. Less than six months into his undercover work, he was shot and almost killed in a murky incident that took place at a local gangbanger’s residence.
An unfortunate posterchild for the disturbing lengths law enforcement will often go to make a bust, the 52-year old Wershe, Jr. did more than 32 years behind bars in a conspiracy-laced cocaine-possession case stemming from a routine traffic stop when he was just 17. Experts on his case justly labeled a political prisoner from the war on drugs. His profile in the press went through the roof, as crime reporters and gossip columnists detailed his fashion choices, dating life and fleet of fancy automobiles.
During the height of Wershe, Jr.’s notoriety in the 80s, the media, both local and national, went bonkers with its coverage of him and his case, drawn like moths to a flame with the surreal sex appeal oozing from the pours of the crazy storyline. Popular television cop dramas of the era, Miami Vice and 21 Jump Street, featured story arcs inspired by Wershe, Jr.’s exploits in Detroit.
Kid Rock and Eminem, Detroit’s biggest-selling music acts of the last half-century, were both fascinated by Wershe, Jr.’s case and persona. Kid Rock name-checked him in some of his early rap lyrics and Eminem was developing a feature-film adaptation of his life in the years after his smash-hit 8 Mile hit screens.
Last summer, he finally walked free from a Florida halfway house and returned to Detroit. Wershe, Jr. left prison the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in the history of the American legal system and his fight for freedom gained supporters from around the globe.
Rather surprisingly, portions of those supporters came from former members of federal law enforcement, some of the same men that put Wershe, Jr. to work for Uncle Sam back when he was a teen and turned him into a drug pusher in the first place. Retired FBI agent Jim Dixon, the man responsible for “opening” Wershe, Jr. as a confidential informant in June 1984, died of cancer almost three years ago, however is stillnamed in the lawsuit.
Essentially, “White Boy Rick” was a character he was playing for Team USA and the “Just Say No” White House anti-drug public relations campaign launched by First Lady Nancy Reagan. The character was cultivated out of the desperation federal agents like Dixon were feeling in their fight against the City of Detroit’s growing drug and police corruption problems.
In the summer of 1984, a then-14 year old Wershe, Jr. went to work for a task force made up of FBI, DEA and DPD targeting eastside Detroit drug kingpin Johnny (Lil’ Man) Curry. The ultimate goal of the task force was to flip Curry and get him to testify against Mayor Coleman Young in an ongoing corruption probe that would never birth any charges. Curry’s wife, the beautiful and sophisticated Cathy Volsan, was the Mayor’s favorite niece and Curry seemingly had free reign at City Hall and at DPD headquarters downtown.
Wershe, Jr. was encouraged to drop out of the ninth grade and operate as a mole for the government on a full-time basis. The charming and quick-witted Wershe, Jr. quickly ingratiated himself to Curry and became a member of his inner-circle, while being paid close to $50,000 for two years of service feeding intelligence to the task force.
The relationship between Wershe, Jr. and the government broke off in October 1986 and Wershe, Jr. became a wholesale cocaine dealer on his own dime. Curry went to prison in April 1987 as a result of a federal drug, money laundering and racketeering case brought by the feds that ensnared the entire “Curry Boys” organization, except for Wershe, Jr., who would go down in his own case a month later.
As soon as Curry was in prison, Wershe Jr. and Volsan began a romantic affair, increasing the already rabid interest level in his unlikely rise in the Motown underworld. At the time, Wershe, Jr. was only 17 and Curry was almost 25.
On May 22, 1987, Wershe, Jr. was arrested by DPD patrolmen in front of his grandmother’s house on Detroit’s eastside for possessing 8 kilos of cocaine found following a post traffic-stop scuffle. Police originally pulled Wershe, Jr. and his driver over in a rented vehicle for rolling a stop sign.
Wershe, Jr. was found guilty of possession with intent to distribute more than 650 grams of a controlled substance at a January 1988 jury trial in Wayne County Recorders Court and sentenced to mandatory natural life under a since-overturned state law. While in prison, Wershe, Jr. went back to work for the FBI and DEA and helped them build more cases, even thwarting a high-level New York mafia assassination plot.
Although the law, known as the “650 Lifer Law” was kicked off the books in Michigan in 1998, Wershe, Jr. wasn’t paroled until July 2017. At that time, he was forced to go to Florida to finish a five-year state prison stint for his role in a stolen car ring being from inside a Lake County federal correctional facility’s witness-security unit.
Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey and newcomer Richie Merritt co-starred in the 2018 film White Boy Rick about the friendship between Wershe, Jr. (Merritt) and his street-hustling, gun-dealing dad (McConaughey) and how Wershe, Jr. was used as an underage federal informant. Back in April, White Boy, a documentary Wershe, Jr. was a part of and which chronicled his stranger-than-fiction case, went viral on Netflix and was trending on the culture-curating streaming platform for 10 days.