Childhood & Early Life
Richard Wershe Jr. was born on July 18, 1969, in Michigan to Richard Wershe Sr. and Darlene McCormick. He has a sister, Dawn, who is about three years older than him.
Wershe Jr. grew up in a lower middle-class household in East Side of Detroit. When he was five years old, his parents decided to separate. Darlene subsequently moved to the suburbs. Both Wershe Jr. and Dawn chose to live with their father at their small brick house on Hampshire Street at Dickerson Avenue. The siblings were raised by their father with the help of his own parents who lived across the street from them.
After he turned 12, he briefly stayed with his mother. However, by then, Darlene had remarried and Wershe Jr. was not fond of his stepfather. About a year later, he moved back in with his father.
He attended a local high school but abandoned his education in 1985, right before his 16th birthday.
Wershe Sr. was a self-admitted hustler and found numerous inventive ways to earn money. He hawked surplus electronics, satellite TV equipment, sporting goods, and devices to pirate cable TV. In addition to this, he was an amateur inventor. Wershe Sr. was also known as an illegal arms dealer in the black market.
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Involvement with Crime & Becoming an FBI Informant
Wershe Jr. got involved in the world of crime through a petty criminal named Terrence Bell, with whom his sister was in a relationship at the time. Wershe Sr. was rapidly losing his hold on both of his children. Dawn was doing crack cocaine while Wershe Jr., accompanied by Bell, began committing burglaries.
The Curry brothers, Leo 'Big Man' Curry and Johnny 'Lil Man' Curry, were twins. They controlled the drug operations in Wershe Jr.’s neighbourhood in Detroit’s East Side. Wershe Jr. first became acquainted with Rudell "Boo" Curry, the younger brother of Leo and Johnny. Through him, he gained access to the Curry brothers and their lavish lifestyle.
The 1980s witnessed America’s war on drugs combating a new enemy, crack cocaine. Wershe Sr. had initially contacted the FBI to seek their help with his daughter, who, by then, had a severe drug problem.
In the summer of 1984, FBI agents came to their house and started showing pictures of the Curry brothers and their associates. While his father did not recognize them, Wershe Jr. did. Soon after, he became an informant for the FBI. He was only 14 years old at the time.
The Wershes could barely make the ends meet. However, after Wershe Jr. became an FBI informant, money began to flow in as they paid him for information. He was making more money than most adults he knew.
His connection with the Curry family immensely helped him in his pursuit to gather more and more information on the drug activities in his neighbourhood and the city at large.
Johnny was one of the most powerful drug lords in Detroit’s underworld and Wershe Jr. constantly provided information on him and his criminal empire. Despite his age, he proved himself to be invaluable to the FBI. He regularly spent time with the brothers and they did not suspect a thing. To them, he was too young to be an informant.
By the time he turned 15, he was skipping school by the day and spending the nights at the clubs, gathering Information for the FBI. The authorities were equally active. Based on the information Wershe Jr. provided, they cracked down on the drug dealers and seized hundreds of weapons, kilos of cocaine, and millions of dollars.
The biggest confiscation occurred on East Side, where the Curry brothers were in charge. According to retired FBI agent John Anthony, White Boy Rick was the most productive informant for the agency at the time.
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When he was 15, Wershe Jr. was shot in the stomach by one of Johnny’s associates at the latter house. Wershe Jr. pleaded to the man to call him an ambulance. He did not, but his girlfriend soon arrived at the house and after realising what had transpired, quickly called for help.
Wershe Jr. survived the ordeal and it appeared to the Curry brothers and their associates that he did not reveal anything to the authorities. This garnered him “street cred” in their eyes and in the ensuing months, he grew even closer to them.
After he was shot, Wershe Sr. did not want him to work with the FBI again. Wershe Jr. has stated that although his father knew that he was still meeting with the FBI, he never realised how far the agency had gotten him involved with the Curry brothers.
In April 1985, Johnny went to Las Vegas, Nevada, to watch the Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns boxing match. The FBI sent Wershe Jr. there with a fake id and $15,000 so he would continue to do his job as an informant. His sister accompanied him.
The FBI eventually arrested the Curry brothers and many of their associates and built cases against them with the information that Wershe had supplied them over the years. Johnny and other members of his organisation each served 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to several charges.
Career as a Drug Dealer
After the collapse of the Curry brothers’ criminal empire, the FBI was done with Wershe Jr. as well. However, he was already accustomed to the affluent life that the steady money from the FBI allowed him to lead. He essentially had two choices at the time, go back to school or hit the streets. He chose the latter and became a drug dealer.
Wershe Jr. was a “weight man,” not a full-fledged kingpin. He directly bought cocaine from a Miami-based supplier named Art Derrick. He had an affair with Johnny’s wife, Cathy Volsan, who was an influential figure in Detroit at the time, being the niece of Mayor Coleman Young.
There was even an assassination attempt on Wershe Jr. by former professional hitman Nathaniel Craft, who later revealed that he was employed by police detective Gil Hill to kill Wershe Jr. to prevent him from speaking about police corruption in Detroit.
During this period, he was earning about $30,000 a month. In May 1987, when he was 17 years old, Wershe Jr. was arrested and charged with the possession of eight kilos of cocaine. He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1998, his case was revisited and he was granted the chance of parole.
Later Years & Life in Prison
Wershe continued to help the FBI even after being incarcerated and played an instrumental role in Operation Backbone, which resulted in the arrests of several corrupt Detroit police officers.
He was unanimously allowed parole in June 2017. Despite this, he was relocated to Florida State Prison to serve another sentence for his involvement in a car theft ring.
At present, Wershe Jr. is kept at the Reception and Medical Center state prison in Lake Butler, Florida and is scheduled to be released in 2020. He has three children, including a son named Richard Williams.