A blog about the shadowy world of law enforcement informants with particular focus on the story of Michigan prison inmate "White Boy Rick" Richard Wershe, Jr. His amazing story compels us to look at many aspects of this underworld of the criminal underworld.
Richard Wershe Jr.’s life as a
teenage FBI informant wasn’t all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The cocaine
trade is a dangerous, sometimes deadly business, as White Boy Rick learned
Rick is miffed. Frustrated may be a better term. I’ve been sending him copies
of each week’s blog post on Informant America. Michigan prison inmates don’t
have access to the Internet.
you’d write more about how they all lied,” he told me last week in a phone call
from prison. He’s referring to the recollections of former members of the
Detroit federal drug task force of the 1980s, mostly retired FBI agents.
plenty of lies and half-truths behind the legend of White Boy Rick—Richard J.
Wershe, Jr. At various times “the truth” has been shaded, embellished,
forgotten or selectively recalled by FBI agents, DEA agents, Detroit Police
officers, Assistant United States Attorneys, Assistant Wayne County
Prosecutors, and as we shall see in a future blog post, by a former Wayne
County prosecutor in a most significant way.
Boy Rick legend never would’ve happened without the complicity of the Detroit
news media. Most of the reporters who have done stories about White Boy Rick
have been, um, shall we say, less than diligent in reporting the true story. The
majority of them never did fact-checking on the tale they were spoon fed by
cops and prosecutors. If they had they would understand why Wershe says “they
everyone is lying. Some key aspects of Rick Wershe’s role as a teenaged FBI
informant happened over 30 years ago. Even Rick Wershe can’t remember
everything that happened in 1984-85. That doesn’t mean he’s lying. He can’t
remember. That’s true of everyone.
at a comment by Kenneth Walton, a retired FBI agent who was in charge of the
Detroit office for a portion of the time Rick was a confidential Bureau
informant. Walton said there were no FBI rules back then governing the use of
juvenile informants. (See the Informant
America blog post, “The Snitch Looked
Like Howdy Doody” posted May 3, 2015)
were no rules why did they hide me behind my Dad?” Rick Wershe asks. He’s
referring to the fact FBI agents filed informant tips they received from him—Richard
Wershe, Junior—in the file they had for Richard Wershe, Senior who was on the Bureau’s
books as a listed FBI confidential informant. Rick Wershe’s point is the agents
knew what they were doing handling a teenaged informant wasn’t right. If it
was, he reasons, they would have created a separate file for him, something
that didn’t happen until Wershe Junior was old enough to be considered a young
While we are
on the subject of truth and facts, there is a worry that previous blog posts
may have left the wrong impression. A reader might get the idea the adventures
of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. as a teenaged undercover FBI informant were nothing
but excitement and glamor; a cash-rich life of fast cars, fast women and fast
travel to places like Las Vegas and Miami, made even more exciting by his role
as a secret government informer.
It’s time to
tell you about the episode where White Boy Rick got shot and almost died. It
happened about six months in to his role as an FBI informant against the Curry
Brothers drug organization on Detroit’s east side.
Johnny Curry was married to
Cathy Volsan, the hot young niece of former Detroit mayor Coleman Young, now
deceased. Young had members of his Detroit police security detail assigned to
insulate his high-living, drug-using niece from law enforcement trouble.
Consequently, Johnny Curry had unusual access to police narcotics intelligence. Several Detroit police officers worked on the task force and they were
duty-bound to keep their superiors informed about task force operations. What
others in the police department did with that information is anyone’s guess.
of Richard Wershe, Jr. in November, 1984, is a matter of muddled memories,
including Rick’s. According to Rick a Curry associate named Johnny invited him
to his house. Wershe says Johnny was upstairs when he arrived. As Wershe
climbed the stairs, he says Johnny shot him in the stomach with a Ruger .357 magnum.
According to Rick Wershe, Johnny didn’t say anything and refused to help him.
The only reason he’s alive today, Wershe says, is because Johnny's girlfriend
know to this day why he shot me,” Wershe told me recently. Rick says some say
it was on orders from Johnny Curry himself because he suspected the white kid
was an informant. Some say it was over a girl. Some say it was an accident. “If
I had to guess, I think someone told him to do it,” Wershe says. He has nothing
but a gut hunch; a gut torn up by a shot from a .357 magnum.
Rick Wershe was shot with a .357 magnum like this one. Photo-World Guns
rushed to St. John’s hospital on Detroit’s east side where he underwent
surgery. He was in the hospital under the name John Doe. He didn’t have a
phone. He wasn’t allowed visitors except for his immediate family. A uniformed
police officer was stationed outside his room. “Yet the cops were going around
saying it was an accident,” Wershe remembers.
the doctor who treated him after the
shooting said: “I don’t know what you’re involved in
but whatever it is, you almost died.”
getting shot enhanced Rick Wershe’s “street cred.” In a rough and tough town like
Detroit, getting shot is a badge of honor—almost. “People didn’t know why I was
shot but they knew I had been shot,” Wershe says. In the minds of more than a
few street people, that made him a badass, the real deal.
514 murders in Detroit in 1984. Through good medical care and a dose of pure
luck, Richard J. Wershe, Jr. avoided becoming number 515.
his relationship with Johnny Curry changed after the shooting. “When I got out
of the hospital, Johnny came to see me,” Wershe recalls. “Me and him went for a
ride. He said he didn’t have anything to do with it. Truthfully, I think he was
more afraid than anything.”
was a cautious man, Wershe says, and the shooting put the dope dealer in an
uncomfortable spotlight. Rick says he never saw Johnny Curry with so much as a
joint of marijuana. As for the cocaine he was selling, Johnny Curry wouldn’t go
near the stuff. He had others handle it. Wershe says he never bought or sold
drugs from or for Johnny Curry.
shooting, Rick Wershe continued his role as a confidential informant for the
FBI. A logical question is, why?
stupid as hell,” Wershe admits. “I should have walked away right then. It shows
you how stupid you are when you are 15.”
puzzling is why Johnny Curry continued to allow Rick Wershe to hang around with
him after the shooting.
explanation may be that the shooting actually had nothing to do with Curry or Wershe’s
role as a snitch. Maybe it was a personal feud over a girl. Maybe it was an
accident. This is one mystery in Rick Wershe’s story that will remain just
that; a mystery.
around much after that,” Wershe recalls in talking about his relationship with
Johnny Curry. “He invited me to Vegas for the (Hagler/Hearns} fight but I
didn’t go to the fight. I hung out.”
hanging out with the Currys when another shooting occurred. This one was fatal.
The trip to
Las Vegas for the fight was not without trouble. A small-time dope dealer named
Leon Lucas had stiffed the Currys on a portion of the trip after he had
promised he would take care of all the arrangements. Lucas also owed the Curry
organization money for dope that had been given to him on credit. The Curry
crowd was not pleased with Leon Lucas.
So a couple
of guys in the Curry organization took it upon themselves to teach Leon Lucas a
lesson. They wanted him to know you don’t make promises to the Currys that you
On the night
of April 29, 1985 Damion Lucas, 13, and his younger brother, Frankie, 11, were
watching television at their uncle Leon’s home on Marlowe Street in Detroit.
Leon Lucas wasn’t home at the time. The boys were in the house alone when at
least 20 shots from automatic weapons tore through the house from the front
yard. One of the shots ripped in to the chest of Damion Lucas. The shot was
Damion Lucas - Family Photo
Lucas, Damion’s terrified little brother, desperately called 911 in a
heart-wrenching call for help which will be detailed in the next blog post.
shooting had profound implications for criminal justice in Detroit. It ended
the life of Damion Lucas, it changed the life of Frankie Lucas, of course, but
also it altered the fate of Johnny Curry, Cathy Volsan Curry, Richard Wershe,
Jr., a Detroit man named LeKeas Davis, FBI agent Herman Groman and the movie-celebrity
head of Detroit Police Homicide, Gil Hill.
was able to provide the FBI with some critical intelligence about the Lucas
murder and apparent police corruption and obstruction of justice. There are
strong indications the intrigue surrounding the death of Damion Lucas is a key
reason Richard Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick—is still in prison to this day.