Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Road to Ruin

One of the first big cases of the Detroit Federal Drug Task Force of the 1980s was the prosecution of the Johnny Curry drug gang. They took the unheard-of step of secretly enlisting the help of a 14-year old kid to spy on the drug crew. When the feds made their case, they dumped the kid—Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—and left him to fend for himself. He was about to get a lesson in the politics of drug crime and big city law enforcement.

By late winter/early spring of 1986 the relationship between Richard Wershe, Jr.—a paid teen confidential informant—and members of the Detroit Federal Narcotics Task Force was almost as cloudy and chilly as the weather outside. Like so many things in the White Boy Rick saga, memories and opinions don’t match about the reason for the waning interaction between the narcs and their kid informant.

Richard Wershe, Jr. had been recruited by FBI agents at age 14 to inform on the Johnny Curry drug organization. The agents enlisted his help because he was known and trusted by the Curry brothers; Johnny, Leo and Rudell.

Rick Wershe had grown up in a “changing neighborhood.” That’s a code term used by politicians, social workers and do-gooders of various kinds to say blacks had moved in to a white neighborhood.

Rick adapted to his surroundings. The kid picked up black slang and he sounded black when he spoke. This was the early 80s, before hip-hop and rap. If Rick Wershe were a teen today his white peers might call him a wigger—a pejorative, insulting term for a white person who has adopted the inner city black lingo, cultural values and lifestyle.

Thus, it’s not surprising that Rick Wershe was accepted as a “kid from the hood” by the likes of the Curry brothers.

Wershe’s role as a white informant for the FBI against a black, politically-connected drug gang is central to his continued imprisonment long after the Currys and various Detroit drug gangsters have been tried, convicted, sentenced and paroled.

It is reasonable to suspect FBI agents and Detroit cops from the federal task force refused to help him when he was facing a major state/local drug case because to do so the image-conscious federal agency would have had to admit they literally lured a juvenile in to a life of crime to help them make a big case. When their teen informant got in trouble, their response was to let him twist in the wind rather than stand up and say ‘he was helping us.’ It would be years before they tried to help Rick Wershe get out of prison.

They had their big case. What happened to the impressionable and vulnerable teen they had led in to the criminal underworld after that was his problem. They had new cases to crack.

Guys on the task force will tell you Rick Wershe provided some key help early-on in the Curry investigation but his usefulness diminished once the feds got court-authorized wiretaps and began recording Johnny Curry’s phone calls.

Today Rick Wershe believes someone “high-up” got wind of the use of a teenager as an undercover informant, and ordered a stop to it in 1986.

Either way, Rick Wershe was suddenly an undercover used-to-be.

Young Rick Wershe had dropped out of school to live his role as a secret federal informant. When his handlers quit talking to him, Rick Wershe didn’t know what to do. His dysfunctional family wasn’t in a position to help him try to become a normal teen. He decided to continue in the only life he had known in his teen years. He decided to get in the illegal drug trade.

Not only was Wershe flirting with becoming a drug dealer, he was stepping in to the political minefield of FBI pursuit of big city police corruption. The Detroit teenager had no idea what he was getting in to.

Black politicians have long accused the mostly-white FBI of targeting blacks who rise to positions of power—in politics and in crime, which are often intertwined.

In this case the white-controlled FBI was targeting a black drug gang with a leader—Johnny Curry—who was married to the niece of Coleman Young—Detroit’s then-mayor who was one of the most politically powerful blacks in America in that era. In the minds of more than a few Detroit blacks, the Curry investigation was part of a relentless FBI campaign to get Coleman Young, one way or another. In this case, it was through his niece’s drug-dealing husband.

What’s more, the FBI was using a white kid to help them bring down the Currys and perhaps get closer to nailing Coleman Young. No one should be surprised by Rick Wershe’s long-standing belief that politically powerful blacks in Detroit have exerted pressure on the Michigan Parole Board to punish him—for life—for helping the detested FBI.

The Parole Board knows full well that Rick Wershe had helped law enforcement bring down some big criminals. It’s in the official record of Wershe’s ill-fated 2003 parole hearing. The fact the Parole Board has released numerous inmates who did far worse than Rick Wershe ever did—admitted professional killers, for example—lends credence to the idea that Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is a political prisoner.

The Michigan Parole board has some explaining to do but they won’t. No one holds them accountable. They do what they please with no oversight, no responsibility to do justice.

If, for example, and this is a purely theoretical example of course, a member of the Michigan Parole Board harangues the other members with outright lies about a certain inmate and argues that inmate must never be released, there is no mechanism in the law or administrative procedures to challenge such a vendetta-monger. The Michigan Parole Board is under no obligation to check facts and make decisions based on the truth. The case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is a tragic example of that.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

An Innocent Man, an FBI Agent and a Toothbrush

A young Detroit boy is killed when someone shoots up his uncle’s house where he was watching television. The uncle tells the police a drug gang had threatened him that same morning. The police ignore the lead and focus, instead, on prosecuting an innocent man. The Detroit FBI knew the man was innocent. One of their paid confidential informants told them what really happened. An FBI agent nearly went to jail protecting the identity of the informant: Richard Wershe, Jr., also known as White Boy Rick.

The summer of 1985 was frustrating for FBI Special Agent Herman Groman. He knew who had killed a 13-year old Detroit boy named Damion Lucas. He was the innocent victim of a bullet in an automatic weapons fusillade by members of a drug gang angry at the boy’s uncle over money he owed them. The shooters riddled the front of the uncle’s house with bullets. One of them struck the 13-year old in the chest, killing him. He had been watching television at his uncle’s house when the gunfire erupted.

The killers were members of the Johnny Curry drug crew—a politically connected criminal enterprise on Detroit’s eastside. Johnny Curry was married to the niece of Detroit’s powerful mayor, Coleman Young. After the fatal shooting Curry was angry that his guys would do something so stupid—and he said so in a telephone conversation that was recorded by the FBI in a court-authorized wiretap. The FBI was leading a federal task force investigation of the Curry group.

The FBI knew the Curry gang was responsible for the murder, yet they had to watch helplessly as the Detroit Police persisted in pursuing an innocent man for the killing. FBI agent Groman and his fellow agents had to be careful how they handled what they knew about the Damion Lucas murder. If the wiretap information was mishandled it could blow the investigation.

The wiretap wasn’t the only source of information the FBI had about the killing of the little boy. They had a paid Confidential Informant (CI) who told them he was present for a meeting of the Curry gang where they discussed how to handle themselves if Detroit Police homicide detectives questioned them about the Damion Lucas murder. That informant was Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—White Boy Rick.

Groman, now retired, says since several Detroit police officers were working as part of the drug task force, it was decided they would discreetly pass the word through channels that the Curry gang was responsible for the fatal shooting.

The cops on the federal task force passed the info along but nothing happened. The Detroit Homicide Section never questioned the Curry gang about the Damion Lucas murder.

They focused instead on an innocent man. LaKeas Davis had had a noisy argument with the dead boy’s uncle a few days before the fatal shooting. But the uncle, Leon Lucas, told the police he and Davis had patched up their dispute. 
Furthermore, Leon Lucas told investigators two of the Curry gang had called him the morning of the shooting and warned him his house would be shot up because he owed the gang money. Yet, the police avoided interrogating Johnny Curry or any of his associates.

What’s more, the morning after the shooting, FBI automated telephone surveillance equipment recorded calls from Johnny Curry’s phone to two unlisted numbers for Detroit police officers. One call was to a sergeant on the mayor’s security detail and a second, longer call was to the private police headquarters line of Homicide Inspector Gil Hill.

Groman and his fellow agents put it all together and concluded someone inside the Detroit Police Department may be involved in obstruction of justice—a federal felony—in the handling of the Damion Lucas murder investigation. They focused on Gil Hill who was the boss of the Homicide Section.

The investigative possibilities were intriguing but none of this helped LaKeas Davis who had been charged with murdering Damion Lucas. The police insisted on prosecuting Davis even though they had strong leads indicating the Curry group was responsible.

“I firmly believed he didn’t do it,” Groman recalls. The FBI agent reached out to Elliott Margolis, the defense attorney for Davis. Groman gave Margolis what is known in court as exculpatory information. That means information that exonerates the defendant; information indicating Davis didn’t kill Damion Lucas.

“I’m all about justice,” Groman says. “An innocent man was being convicted of something he didn’t do. I wanted to make sure this was rectified.”

Margolis did what he had to do. He told the judge presiding over the Davis murder trial about the information from the FBI. Margolis wanted the case dismissed. The prosecution was having none of it. It didn’t take long for Groman to get a subpoena as a witness in the LaKeas Davis murder trial.

Groman’s tip to the defense attorney focused on the FBI’s informant information. Groman treaded lightly regarding the wiretap. The existence of the active tap on Johnny Curry’s phone had to be protected. The focus on the exculpatory information was centered on revelations from an FBI confidential informant. Therefore the defense demanded that Groman reveal the informant’s identity in court so he or she could be called as a witness. After all, LaKeas Davis was on trial for murder.

“It was kind of a tightrope I had to walk and, of course, I didn’t want to give up the identity of the informant,” Groman said.

It's true the FBI works to keep the identities of its Confidential Informants confidential. But there was another factor in this case. The Confidential Informant in the Curry investigation - a paid Confidential Informant - was a juvenile. Rick Wershe Jr. was a teenager.

Even though Ken Walton, the retired former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Detroit FBI says there were no Bureau rules or regs about the use of juvenile informants at that time, Rick Wershe notes pointedly and with some bitterness the agents knew it wasn't right to use a kid to infiltrate a drug gang. That's why, Wershe argues today, they covered his work by putting it in his Dad's FBI informant file, since they had the same names differentiated only by Sr. and Jr., and that's why they had him use his Dad's code name - Gem - to receive periodic payments for his work on the Curry gang. In Rick Wershe's view there was, and to this day still is, some serious ass-covering going on at the Detroit FBI.

When Groman appeared in court the judge directed him to answer the questions about who the informant was. Groman refused to answer. The judge threatened to send him to jail for contempt of court. A showdown was brewing.

Groman was going to need his own lawyer to navigate this sticky scenario. The local U.S. attorney’s office assigned an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) to represent Groman and the FBI in the local murder trial.

The morning Groman was due back in court he and a fellow agent stopped at the federal courthouse to pick up the Assistant United States Attorney assigned to represent Groman and the FBI in the local court case.

When the attorney got in the FBI car Groman tried to sound cheery and optimistic. “I said, ‘Well, how ya doing? Are you all set? Are you ready to defend me vigorously?’”

Groman remembers the federal attorney’s reply.

“’Well,’ she said, ‘I was thinking about that when I was getting ready and so I brought you a present.’” She pulled out a new toothbrush and handed it to Groman. “’I think you might need this,’” she said. The implication was that Groman was going to jail.

When they got to court the judge again ordered Groman to answer the questions about the informant’s identity and any other exculpatory evidence the FBI had about LaKeas Davis.

Groman again refused to answer but before he was sent to jail it was agreed there would be a confidential—in camera—hearing in the judge’s chambers. Away from the public courtroom Groman explained to the judge and the attorneys the information the FBI had and the fact their informant had been present for a Curry gang meeting on how to handle the murder investigation. He also revealed the wiretap and the need to keep it secret for the sake of the drug investigation which was being presented to a federal grand jury.

It was agreed that prosecutors in the LaKeas Davis case would be allowed to question the FBI’s informant—by telephone from the FBI Detroit office where, ironically, they could be sure the phones weren’t tapped. The prosecutors would not be told the informant’s identity.

Rick Wershe doesn’t remember a lot about what happened next. He recalls being driven one day to FBI headquarters in downtown Detroit and taken to an office where he was put on a telephone and told to answers questions about what he knew about the Damion Lucas case. The local case prosecutors were on the other end of the line, in another office at the Detroit FBI’s offices. Wershe’s identity was not revealed. At that time Wershe’s normal manner of speech made it sound like he was a young black man even though he was white.

The charges against LaKeas Davis were dismissed. An innocent man had spent several months in jail fighting for his life while someone in authority in the Detroit Police Department kept the investigation away from the real killers. The Damion Lucas murder never came back to court. The police and prosecutors never pursued the tips that the Curry gang was responsible for the murder.

“That case stuck in my craw because I knew we had something going on here and it involved corruption within the police department,” Groman says.

As the Curry drug investigation neared the point of a federal grand jury indictment Groman was reassigned from the Detroit FBI drug squad to the public corruption squad.

The unsolved Damion Lucas murder was always in the back of his mind and several years later it was the catalyst for one of the biggest public corruption cases the Detroit FBI ever had. It was a case that hinged on the work of a Confidential Informant. That informant was Rick Wershe. More, a lot more, about that case will be explored in a future blog post.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

White Boy Rick Wasn't The Only One Talking

One reason Richard J. Wershe, Jr., better known publicly as White Boy Rick, remains in prison doing a life term for drugs, seems to be a belief among some in Detroit’s criminal justice system that Wershe was the FBI’s only source of information in the highly controversial killing of a young boy by a Detroit drug gang with political connections.

It’s not true. Johnny Curry, the gang leader, was himself a source of information for the FBI about the murder of Damion Lucas, both at the time of the murder through things he said on a tapped telephone after the killing, and later in prison when he was interviewed by agents.
Another source was Kevin Colbert, a member of the Curry drug gang.

Readers of this blog know it has been slogging through the details of the rise and fall of Richard Wershe, Jr.—AKA—White Boy Rick, mostly in chronological order. Recent posts have focused on the 1985 murder of 13-year old Damion Lucas, an accidental drug-gang killing that plays a critical role in the shameful insistence of some on keeping Wershe in prison when others who did far worse have been paroled.

This post continues the focus on the Damion Lucas killing but jumps forward in time a bit to explore what a member of the Johnny Curry drug gang told the FBI about the death of the young boy.

Kevin Colbert—known on the street as “Weasel”—was among those indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in the Curry Brothers drug organization on Detroit’s east side. Johnny Curry and two of his brothers ran a dope dealing operation that had political connections. Curry was engaged to and then married Cathy Volsan, the attractive niece of the late Coleman Young, Detroit’s powerful mayor in that era.

Kevin Colbert was among those indicted in the federal case against the Curry drug gang.

The case never went to trial. Johnny Curry and his gang pleaded guilty in exchange for shorter prison sentences. Such deals are known in federal courts as a “Rule 11.” As part of the plea deal, the defendants admit their guilt and submit to a debriefing by the FBI in which they detailed their knowledge of various elements of the criminal enterprise. These debriefings often lead to new investigations.

FBI agent Gregg Schwarz, now retired, debriefed Kevin Colbert. FBI investigative reports are known by their bureaucratic form number—302. The 302 detailing Kevin Colbert’s debriefing includes his version of the Damion Lucas murder. This blog quotes extensively from FBI 302s and other historic investigative file reports. One reason for that is much of the Rick Wershe story is old history and memories fade. The reports in the files were written at the time the events happened.

Schwarz, who believes Rick Wershe should have been paroled long ago, thinks the Kevin Colbert Rule 11 debriefing is significant because it shows White Boy Rick wasn’t the only one who gave information to the FBI about the Damion Lucas murder.

The Damion Lucas case has never been solved. FBI agents believe the investigation was deliberately thwarted to protect Johnny Curry, and by extension, Cathy Volsan, the mayor’s niece. That is called obstruction of justice and it is a felony.

The focus from the beginning has been on then-Inspector Gil Hill, the head of the Detroit Homicide section at the time. Hill was politically powerful, with connections far beyond his rank. For one thing, he was a local celebrity thanks to his role as Eddie Murphy’s tough-talking cop boss in the hit movie Beverly Hills Cop.

Detroit is a town starved for celebrities, so when it gets one, the people cling to the star in their midst tenaciously and go to great lengths to defend him or her. If someone criticizes their local hero, many people take it personally. That translates in to political power.

When the Damion Lucas murder happened, Gil Hill was a Detroit celebrity with political ambition. He retired from police work and ran for the Detroit City Council. He won. Eventually he became council president. He made an unsuccessful bid for mayor, too. Through it all, the FBI investigation of his possible obstruction of justice in the Damion case dogged Hill like a shadow, even after the statute of limitations for prosecuting him passed.

Hill is retired now and reportedly in declining health. Some say he partly blames Rick Wershe for losing the mayoral election due to Wershe’s role in informing the FBI about the Curry gang involvement in the Damion Lucas murder. 

Still others speculate and theorize—and it’s important to use those terms—that law enforcement/prosecution friends of Hill have a to-this-day vendetta against Richard Wershe Jr. as a result of the FBI obstruction of justice investigation, which never resulted in an indictment or charges. Hill is a black Detroit celebrity and some believe the mostly-white FBI was just trying to discredit another black hero.

Back to Kevin Colbert. FBI Special Agent Gregg Schwarz questioned Colbert in November, 1987 regarding the Damion Lucas killing. Schwarz recently told me he regarded Colbert as a hanger-on in the Curry organization. In the FBI 302 of the Colbert Rule 11 debriefing, the former Curry gang member said the dead boy’s uncle, Leon Lucas and a relative named Robert Walton defrauded the Curry gang regarding prepaid lodging and entertainment charges related to the group attending a Las Vegas prize fight between Detroit boxer Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler in mid-April, 1985. Hagler won. Quoting the 1987 FBI 302:
“COLBERT stated it was common knowledge that both JOHNNIE and LEO (Curry), as well as WYMAN JENKINS, were extremely upset with LUCAS and WALTON. After their return to the Detroit metropolitan area, LEO CURRY told WYMAN JENKINS to assign SIDNEY GOODWIN, also known as WACK, WALTER OWENS, also known as WALDO, and KEVIN COLBERT, also known as WEASEL, to go to the home(s) of ROBERT WALTON and LEON LUCAS with appropriate weapons and shoot the houses in an attempt to display their displeasure with the actions of both WALTON and LUCAS. COLBERT continued by stating it was WYMAN JENKINS and LEO CURRY who provided MAC-10s and MAC-11s, as well as other weapons for the completion of this incident.”
Colbert admits he was the driver of the car that took the shooters to their destinations.
On the night of April 29, 1985, a car in the driveway of Robert Walton and the front of the home owned by Leon Lucas were riddled with bullets from automatic weapons. One of the bullets fired in to the Lucas house killed Damion Lucas, who was watching TV with his younger brother.
Interestingly, Colbert attributes the shooting of the Lucas home to Sidney Goodwin and Walter Owens. The FBI investigation focused on Wyman Jenkins as one of the prime shooters and an FBI wiretap of a Johnny Curry telephone call captured Curry talking about Jenkins as a prime suspect.
Retired agent Schwarz says in criminal investigations it’s common for different sources to say different things. “They tell you what they think you want to hear,” is the way Schwarz puts it. 
To look at it another way, a criminal spilling his guts to fulfill a federal Rule 11 plea agreement may tell you the truth, but it may not be all of the truth. It may be slanted truth with emphasis here and de-emphasis there or an omission entirely.
Colbert told Schwarz after the Curry gang realized Damion Lucas had been killed in the shooting spree they held a meeting at Johnny Curry’s house on Whitehill Street in Detroit. Quoting from the FBI 302 report again:
“COLBERT stated the consensus of opinion was that all involved would have absolutely no comment regarding the shooting incident and that silence should be the best policy.”
It never came to that. FBI telephone pen registers, which preceded actual court-authorized listening via wiretap, showed a call the morning after the Damion Lucas killing from Johnny Curry’s house to the unlisted home phone of Detroit Police Sgt. James Harris, a member of the mayor’s security detail who had responsibility for looking after the mayor’s family, including Cathy Volsan.
The call from Curry’s house to Harris’ house was immediately followed by a much longer call from the Curry phone to an unlisted private phone at Detroit Police Headquarters which was in the office of Homicide Inspector Gil Hill.
Leon Lucas and Robert Walton both told homicide investigators they believed the Curry drug gang was responsible for the fatal drive-by shooting. 
After the call from Curry’s house to Hill’s office, no one in the Curry organization was ever questioned by the Detroit Police regarding the Damion Lucas murder. 
The investigation focused, instead, on an innocent man who was charged with the Damion Lucas murder. Charges against that man, LeKeas Davis, were eventually dropped after a dramatic intervention by the FBI. Herman Groman, an FBI agent on the Curry case, told Davis’ defense attorney that the Bureau had informant information that it was the Curry gang, not LaKeas Davis, who killed Damion Lucas. But Groman was determined not to reveal his source. He almost went to jail as a result of protecting the informant’s identity. 
The informant was Richard Wershe, Jr., White Boy Rick.    

Sunday, June 7, 2015

White Boy Rick - He Knew Less Than People Think

Richard Wershe, Jr. was an important FBI Confidential Informant in the investigation of a major Detroit drug organization, but it’s easy to overstate his role.  His "White Boy Rick" reputation had more to do with his age at the time—14—and his race—the only white guy in a black drug crew—than his exploits in the drug underworld. To this day many people believe he knew far more than he did. Here’s what Rick knew and didn’t know about an important murder investigation.

Untold numbers of numbers of people around the world are aware Detroit, Michigan was once known as the Motor City for the countless automobiles built there, but in the post-1967 riot years it became known as the Murder City. Year after year, starting in the 1970s, Detroit had more violent deaths than Belfast, Ireland, Beirut, Lebanon or most of the world’s other danger zones of that era.

Of the hundreds of murders in Detroit over the years, one stands out as having significant impact on city politics. It is the April 29, 1985 drive-by shooting murder of 13-year old Damion Lucas. It can be argued that the Damion Lucas murder is a key reason Richard J. Wershe, Jr. remains in prison serving a life prison term, even though he had nothing to do with it and, in fact, tried to help the FBI get justice for the dead boy. Some in Detroit's criminal "justice" system apparently believe this was the start of Wershe's long-running informant role on police corruption. And some, apparently, have done all they can to keep Wershe behind bars as punishment for telling on crooked cops.

It must be noted that Rick Wershe tried to help by passing along to an FBI agent what he heard in a meeting of the Curry drug gang shortly after the boy was killed by mistake by members of the organization. But Wershe didn’t know any more than what he overheard in a conversation. At the time Wershe was a secret paid informant for the FBI regarding the Curry organization. He had been recruited by the FBI because he had good access to Johnny Curry, the leader of the group.

As Wershe told me recently in a phone call from prison, he wasn’t in a position to ask questions about the Damion Lucas murder. That would have been a red flag to the whole group. 

The truth is, Rick Wershe’s knowledge of the Damion Lucas homicide was important but minimal, at best. Many people in the Detroit criminal justice system think he knows more than he does, and that has been a significant problem for him in his efforts to get a parole. Some apparently fear he knows a lot he hasn’t told. Wershe himself will be the first to tell you people think he knows more about Detroit drug dealing and police corruption than he actually knows.

The FBI had more than a tip from Rick Wershe about the Damion Lucas homicide. They had a wiretap conversation of Johnny Curry telling a friend that Wyman Jenkins, one of his top lieutenants, caused a lot of trouble by shooting up the home where the little boy was watching television with his younger brother. A bullet from an automatic weapon tore through the wall and killed Damion Lucas: “S**t. He got ta weather hisself outta this one, ‘cause they went and did a dumbass move by killing that little boy. Man, that’s a little boy, s**t.”

The evidence shows the Detroit Police went to great lengths to avoid prosecuting anyone in the Curry organization. The apparent reason is the Curry gang was politically connected. 

The police spent considerable time trying to build a false case against an innocent man just to keep the spotlight away from the Curry Brothers drug organization.

The trail of the thwarted investigation of the Damion Lucas homicide led the FBI to Inspector Gilbert Hill, then head of the Detroit Police Homicide section. Just prior to the start of the wiretap on Johnny Curry’s phone the FBI had been mechanically recording a log of all calls to and from Curry’s phone, showing the date, time and length of each call. The data was captured by a device known as a pen register.

The morning after Damion Lucas was murdered, the pen register log showed a brief call from Johnny Curry’s home phone to the unlisted home phone of Detroit Police Sgt. James Harris, a member of then-Mayor Coleman Young’s security detail. Harris was responsible for looking out for the mayor’s relatives and that included Cathy Volsan, the mayor’s favorite niece, who was the fiancĂ© of Johnny Curry.

The Curry call to Harris was followed by a much longer phone call to a private, unlisted telephone at Detroit Police Headquarters. The phone was on the desk of Homicide Inspector Gil Hill.

What did Curry and Hill talk about? As luck would have it, the FBI didn’t get court authorization to begin a full wiretap until a few days later.

But Rick Wershe recalls riding around with Johnny Curry a few days after the murder when Johnny received a call on his car phone—an unusual luxury accessory in 1985. Wershe told me he could clearly hear both sides of the conversation. The caller, Wershe says, was Detroit Police Inspector Gil Hill. Wershe says he remembers hearing Hill tell Curry not to worry, because “I’ve got you covered,” or words to that effect.

This and other facts and recollections in previous posts on Informant America might create the impression that Richard Wershe, Jr. was a key player in the Curry drug organization. That’s not true. He was a key hanger-on

For whatever reason, Johnny Curry liked having this teenaged white kid who was street-savvy and who spoke fluent ghetto Swahili hanging around. Curry would take him to nightclubs favored by Detroit’s black gangsters, where Rick was an obvious oddity—a fish out of water. But Wershe wasn’t an actual insider. Johnny Curry was much too cautious for that.

What made Wershe unique in the Curry investigation was his age. He began his role as an FBI confidential informant at age 14 simply because he knew and was trusted by the Currys.

Retired FBI agent Herman Groman, who was one of the investigators who worked with Wershe during the Curry investigation, says Wershe provided key information at certain points, such as the tip about the Damion Lucas murder, but in reality most of the federal case against the Curry organization was gleaned from court-authorized wiretaps.

It is worth noting that Richard Wershe, Jr. was never cited in the Curry Brothers federal grand jury indictment and he wasn't named as a witness. His role as an FBI informant didn't surface until several years later.

Wershe wasn’t the only one who told the FBI what happened the night Damion Lucas was murdered. Kevin Colbert, also known as "Weasel", a member of the Curry gang and one of those indicted, told the story of the Damion Lucas murder to FBI special agent Gregg Schwarz several years later. In other words, Richard Wershe, Jr. isn’t the only source about the case. Colbert’s story will be detailed in the next blog post.