Richie Merritt (left) compared to an older image of Rich Wershe Jr., the subject of the film White Boy Rick.
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The Story of White Boy Rick: How a Teenager Was Left to Rot In Prison

After helping the FBI at 15, Rick Wersche Jr. was put in prison for a life they helped. In 1987, he got life without parole at 17. He is still there today.

 

By the age of 16, most teenagers are experiencing their firsts in life. First car, first job, first love.

Richard Wershe Jr.’s story is much different than your average teenager. Before his sixteen birthday, he had already dealt cocaine, been shot and was an FBI informant.

This is the tragic true story of Richard Wershe Jr., also known as ‘White Boy Rick’.

The unfortunate story of a teenager in school with no guidance, who was used by the FBI and was then left to rot in prison.

White Boy Rick’s Troubled Beginnings

At an early age, there were already signs of trouble for Rick.

At the age of six, Rick’s parents got a divorce. After this, his mother moved to a neighborhood in a different part of Detroit. Although Rick’s mother remarried, he stayed with his dad Richard Wershe Sr. He tried living with his mom for about a year when he was in the eighth grade. Eventually, he moved back in with his dad.

Rick was a troublemaker since he was young. He was a familiar face down at the police station.

Even though Rick had been a mischievous kid, it was Terrence Bell and his sister’s boyfriend, who introduced him to crime. Rick says, together, they robbed about 20 houses.

Rick’s father was not what you would call an exemplary role model.

To Richard Wershe Sr., money was more important than morals. He sold electronics, satellite hook-ups, and sporting goods. He also sold firearms in underground markets. Richard Wershe Sr. would also leave the city to do business. He left his son on his own in the process.

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White Boy Rick’s Cocaine Dealing

Rick began a friendship with Rudell ‘Boo’ Curry. Like Rick, he was interested in cars and motorcycles. As he spent more time with Boo, Rick began to get to know his older brothers, Leo ‘Big Man’ Curry and Johnny ‘Lil Man’ Curry. Leo and Johnny ran the drug operations on the East Side.

Attracted to the wealth and power, Rick began dealing drugs by himself. As time passed, his drug sales increased and his profits. Eventually, he cut off the middle man and had cocaine suppliers from Miami delivering directly to him!

White Boy Rick: The Youngest FBI Informant Ever Finally Gets Recognition

He did not only sell drugs. Like his father, he got into the sale of weapons.

When talking about his son, Rick’s dad says,

My son became sick on power, the excitement, the prestige, the money, and the glamour of selling.

A Teenager Used by the FBI

At 14, Rick already got to know some of the key leaders in Detroit’s drug world. Among those major players was Johnny ‘Lil Man’ Curry, known as the cocaine king.

In 1984, FBI agents visited the Wersches’ home. They wanted intel on the drug operations of Detroit. They were looking for Rick’s dad. They listed Richard Wershe Sr. as the informant. Yet, the information really came from Rick Jr.

Although Rick was not close with Curry yet, he did know the dealers in the area. With time, a majority of the information Rick gathered was on the Curry boys. The intel included their involvement in the unintended demise of a thirteen-year-old in 1985. It also included the locations of the narcotic operations.

The Wershes got paid about $35,000 for their information. It is against the law to use a minor for information. Yet, the FBI continued to use Rick Jr. for years to come. They even gave him a phony identification and money to go to Vegas to continue his undercover work. He went to Las Vegas as a part of Curry’s crew. They went to watch the Hearns vs Hagler match.

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Rick Wershe Jr. in court.
Whether or not Rick Wershe Jr.’s (pictured above in a parole hearing decades after his arrest) sentence was deserved, it can’t be denied that a lot of his life was out of his control due to how easy it was to take advantage of his usefulness as an informant. Image Source: The Fix

At 15, one of Curry’s boys shot Rick in the stomach. Although the shooter claimed he did not mean to do it, Rick believes it was an intentional shot. Regardless, Rick was rushed to the hospital.

He almost did not make it. He walked away from the emergency room with a colostomy bag.

He was ashamed of what happened. Taking a bullet boosted his reputation on the streets.

What did the FBI do then?

They used his new reputation to lunge him even further into the Curry gang.

Later, when Rick was on trial, he cited this incident as proof. The FBI handlers pushed him deeper into the drug trade to serve their own means. Instead of putting him into the witness protection program, they continued to use him to gather more information.

All of this drove Rick to drop out of high school. It was a couple of months before his sixteenth birthday.

Rick’s Arrest and Sentencing

After he was done working for the FBI, Rick began selling cocaine again.

In 1987, he was only 17. They arrested him and he was sentenced to life in prison!

Even though he was just a kid, Rick was sentenced to life in prison because of a 1978 Michigan law. It was known as the 650-Lifer Law. The law stated anyone caught with more than six hundred and fifty grams of cocaine was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In 1998, this law changed to allow for the chance of parole. Most who were convicted under the old law was released.

Not Richard Wershe Jr.

In 2003, they had a public hearing. It was to discuss giving Wershe a chance at parole.

DEA agents, cops and prosecutors argued that he should remain in prison. While FBI agents and even Kid Rock, who knew Wershe growing up, argued he should be released.

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Wershe was denied a chance for parole. He would not get another chance at freedom for another 14 years.

Richie Merritt (left) compared to an older image of Rich Wershe Jr., the subject of the film White Boy Rick.
The story of Rick Wershe Jr. (right) is ideal for film, considering it highlights the issues with the system that incarcerated him, pushing him towards a life that would make it difficult to back escape from. Hopefully, Richie Merritt (left) will be able to accomplish the task of portraying Wershe in the upcoming film. Image Source: Detroit Free Press

Helping the FBI While in Prison

Even while in prison, Rick cooperated with the FBI. Operation Backbone was a sting operation targeting public corruption in Detroit. Rick gave the FBI information to assist them.

The operation was a success! 18 corrupt politicians and police officers were put behind bars.

Although he had helped the FBI again, nothing was done for Rick and his unfair prison sentence. He felt,

I think helping the FBI with Operation Backbone was the biggest mistake of my life because it created enemies I couldn’t even imagine.

https://prisonrideshare.org/the-controversial-prison-story-of-famous-prisoner-white-boy-rick/

Another Hearing for Rick in 2017

Finally, on June 8, 2017, Rick was granted another public hearing to discuss the possibility of parole.

Many people came forward to support of Rick at his hearing:

  • Two former FBI agents that worked with Wershe
  • Wershe’s mother
  • Those involved with the making of the movie about him

In fact, one of the officers who arrested Wershe on the day he was caught with more than 650 grams of cocaine came forward. He said Rick did not deserve the sentence he was handed. This is his statement:

Throughout the hearing, Wershe was questioned about his old life and his new life in prison.

Wershe was extremely honest and remorseful for his past.

Talking about Rick, Matthew McConaughey said,

He’s very frank about who he is and what he did, he’s no saint. He’s not proposing to be a saint. He’s one of the few people I’ve met in jail that doesn’t say, ‘I’m innocent.’ He’s very frank about it.

The hearing was 4 hours long. Wershe’s fate lies in the hands of the 10-member Michigan Parole Board.

According to Rick:

The only thing I can tell you, I’m not the person I was.

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Jorge Flores
Jorge Flores is a part-time writer with a wide array of interests ranging from physics to football and of course, prison news. His near unboundless curiosity and his love for people are two qualities you can see in his writing. Jorge currently writes news reports for prison loved ones on Prison Rideshare Network. When not writing, he loves to play football and read.
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