Sunday, January 31, 2016

Parole Board Negligence - an example from the Rick Wershe case

At Rick Wershe’s one and only parole hearing in 2003 the only seemingly substantive evidence against him was presented by two agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration—the DEA. Three DEA investigative documents were presented to the parole board as proving Wershe was a drug lord, a kingpin. Last August Informant America documented flaws and outright falsity in two successive blog posts. It’s time to take a look at the third one.

Last August Informant America documented in a pair of blog posts why the menace-to-society claim against Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was and is totally false. But there were distractions. For a time there appeared to be a chance that Rick Wershe was at long last going to be released from prison. But Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy fought like hell in the courts to keep him in prison. She did this even though her office admitted officially in response to my Freedom of Information Act request for the documents to support the smear against Wershe that they have no records—none—to support earlier allegations from her office that Wershe was the leader of a murderous drug organization that reigned supreme in Detroit’s drug underworld in the late 1980s.

Informant America has argued there appears to be an official vendetta against Rick Wershe, crazy as it may sound. In the 1980s he was a white kid in a mostly black neighborhood who dared to become a paid FBI secret informant against a black drug gang tied to Detroit Mayor Coleman Young through marriage. Wershe wound up sleeping with the mayor’s niece and he helped the FBI prosecute the mayor’s brother-in-law in a major drug case. For good measure, he told on corrupt cops, too. Since then the “system” has gone to great lengths to keep him in prison, no matter how much the laws have changed, no matter how many years he has served.

In the blog posts RickWershe and the DEA’s informant problem and a follow-up, Did a DEA agent mislead the Parole Board about White Boy Rick, we saw how a key DEA snitch who made accusations about Rick Wershe was so outrageously unreliable the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office prosecuted the informant for perjury—lying under oath—and won a conviction. Yet DEA special agent Richard Crock presented this convicted liar’s “debriefing” statement to the Michigan Parole Board as if it came from a reliable informant.

In another blog post, Key‘Witness’ against Wershe denies DEA ‘Lies’, Roy Grisson, Rick Wershe’s one time pal, said the DEA and Detroit Police narcs tried to “sweat” admissions out of him after kidnapping him from a hospital where he was recovering from gunshot wounds from an attempted robbery. The DEA and DPD narcs would later say it was an attempted hit ordered by Rick Wershe. Grisson wouldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear so they dumped him on a downtown Detroit street. Grisson says he’s prepared to testify under oath that the DEA report of his “debriefing” is a fabrication and that any document with his signature is a forgery.

The “debriefing” of discredited informant Terry Colbert and the “debriefing” of Roy Grisson were two of three DEA investigative reports presented to the parole board as “evidence” against Rick Wershe. In this post we will explore the third and final piece of documentation that purports to prove Rick Wershe’s status as a major domo in Detroit’s drug underworld.

A DEA “6” is the form number for their investigative reports. This one deals with a purported surveillance that took place on the night of July 21, 1987. As we will see, there are reasons to wonder if these events really happened.

The report says Detroit Police narcs Gregory Woods and Gerard “Mick” Biernacki were conducting a vehicle surveillance with DEA Special Agent Richard Crock. They liked to call themselves the No Crack Crew.

This DEA-6 report was given to the Michigan Parole Board as part of the evidence that Rick Wershe is a menace to society.

They were watching Kevin Duplessis and Perry Coleman, two of the key suppliers of cocaine to the infamous Chambers Brothers who truly were drug barons in that era. The cops followed Duplessis and Coleman from a pool hall to Rick Wershe’s Video shop on Hayes Street on Detroit’s east side. Rick Wershe tells me his video shop was popular with everybody in the ‘hood because it was the only one in that part of the ghetto.He emphasizes he never did any drug business with Perry Coleman. Knowing the guy is not the same as conspiring with him in a criminal enterprise.

“Even Demetrius Holloway would come in to rent movies,” Wershe recalls. In that era the late Holloway was regarded by many as the godfather of all dope dealers in Detroit. Holloway was murdered execution-style while buying a pair of socks in a clothing store about a block from Detroit Police Headquarters.

The surveillance report goes on to say Perry Coleman met with Rick Wershe, his dad, his friend Roy Grisson and the owner of a car cash named James Bates, Jr. and Steve ROUSHELL. This is blunder # 1 in the DEA report. Wershe’s close friend and business partner in the drug game was the late Steve ROUSELL, not ROUSHELL. Yet the report refers to Rousell as ROUSHELL several times, indicating it wasn’t just a typo.

The DEA-6 repeatedly lists Rick Wershe's close friend Steve Rousell as Steve ROUSHELL. It wasn't a one-time typo. DEA agent Crock repeatedly mis-typed the name of one of Rick Wershe's close associates. This kind of mistake can and would be challenged in court by a defense attorney as an indication of the unreliability of the report and its writer.

Now, let see: if Rick Wershe, Jr. was a drug kingpin, if he had a “gang” one would think the DEA agent trying to make a case against him would know that his crime partner’s name was Rousell—not Roushell. This is fundamental to building a criminal conspiracy case; knowing the names of the suspected conspirators. Crock got it wrong but passed this report along to the Parole Board as part of the opposition to releasing Wershe from prison.

The surveillance report says Steve “Roushell”, Richard Wershe, Sr. and Dawn Wershe all left the video store location. It states Wershe, Grisson and another man named Anthony McGee drove off in two vehicles toward Interstate 94. What follows is a major mistake.

At approximately 9:33 p.m. the two cars “…drove to Interstate 94 EAST to Interstate 75 North to the Seven Mile Rd. exit. Both vehicles traveled at average speeds of 90 MPH. After exiting on Seven Mile Road, both vehicles proceeded westbound to San Juan Street, Detroit, Michigan.”

Which way is up? This line in the DEA report of the surveillance of Rick Wershe and some associates indicates the narcs may not know the answer to that question.

Whoa! What’s wrong with this picture? Any Detroiter would have the answer in an instant. The DEA report has them going in the wrong direction for their destination.
If you go south on Hayes Street to I-94 and you head East you will wind up in St. Clair Shores or Mt. Clemens or eventually Port Huron.

Rick Wershe and his associates traveled from Hayes St. on Detroit's East side to San Juan St. on Detroit's Northwest side. The DEA report states they traveled East. If they did they would have wound up in another city, not Detroit. 

San Juan Street is on Detroit’s NORTHWEST side. They would have to go west if they were driving to San Juan Street in Detroit. This is a pretty big, sloppy error in Crock’s report. It doesn’t stop there.

The DEA report claims Wershe and his associates "averaged" 90 MPH traveling to Detroit's Northwest side. That is a suspicious assertion for several reasons.

“Both vehicles traveled at “average” speeds of 90 MPH.” Oh yeah? How would narcs in unmarked police surveillance cars know this unless they put the public at risk by traveling the same speed to clock the cars they were pursuing?

Agent Crock’s surveillance report states Wershe and his cohorts arrived at 19300 San Juan at about 9:50 p.m. This makes no sense. I personally drove the route described in Crock’s DEA-6 and I can tell you at that time of night you could comfortably make it from 11134 Hayes Street to 19300 San Juan Street in 20 minutes with excessive speeding. If you drove at “average” speeds of 90 MPH you would arrive sooner than the report states--if you didn't get in a collision on congested 7 Mile Rd.

Before proceeding, it should be noted 19300 San Juan is the home of Juanita Volsan, the sister of the late Mayor Young. Rick Wershe, Jr. was having a fling at the time with her daughter, Cathy Curry.

The DEA 6 given to the Michigan Parole Board states the three men entered Juanita Volsan’s home and “…Richard Wershe, Jr. was carrying two full (emphasis added) white shopping bags as witnessed by Officer Woods. Recent intelligence indicates money is often transported by the Wershe Organization in this manner.”

A narc claiming to see Rick Wershe, Jr. enter the home of Juanita Volsan, the sister of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young, implies she was stashing drug profits for Wershe. There was no raid on Volsan's home after this observation so this smears Ms. Volsan without a shred of evidence, and would have the reader believe Rick Wershe raced across town at 90 MPH with two shopping bags full of cash in his car, just inviting a police search if they were stopped for reckless driving.

So Juanita Volsan gets smeared by innuendo without a shred of evidence. This implies her home is a stash house for Rick Wershe’s alleged drug profits. Wershe had two FULL shopping bags. Full of what? We don’t know and neither do the cops running the surveillance.

Rick Wershe insists Juanita Volsan had nothing to do with the illegal drug business even though her daughter favored dating drug dealers and her husband, Willie Clyde Volsan was himself a major drug dealer who was eventually convicted with Rick Wershe's help.

“She was strict,” Wershe told me in a phone call this past Friday. “She was the total opposite of her daughter. She had no tolerance for the drug business.” To emphasize his point, Wershe said: “I wouldn’t even take a gun in her house.”

Wershe makes another point about why the DEA surveillance report given to the Michigan Parole Board flunks the common sense test.

“If we had two shopping bags full of money in the car with us would we be driving 90 miles an hour and risk getting stopped by the cops who might do a car search?”, he asks.
Um, no. Probably not. 

Permit me to speculate about this document. I want to emphasize this is speculation.

It may be that this “surveillance” report was cooked up a few days before Rick Wershe’s 2003 hearing and was not written in the summer of 1987 as the report date suggests.

We know the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office had selected ranking officers of the Detroit Police Department scrambling to find dirt on Wershe quickly in the days before the public hearing. Retired Detroit FBI agent John Anthony recalls now-retired Detroit Police Commander Dennis Richardson called him and seemed “frantic” to get his hands on files about Wershe. Anthony gave him a stack of newspaper clippings; no FBI files. The newspaper clippings were given to the Parole Board at the hearing as more “evidence” against Rick Wershe.

Thus, it is entirely possible that the DEA-6 report 1) linking Wershe to Perry Coleman, a major cocaine supplier for the Chambers Brothers drug gang and 2) darkly noting he carried two “full” white shopping bags in to the home of the sister of the mayor of Detroit and implying it may have been illegal drug proceeds may have been cobbled together in a big hurry in order to present it to the Parole Board as “evidence” that Rick Wershe is a menace to society.

As reported in the blog posts mentioned earlier, every single piece of “evidence” given to the Parole Board by DEA agent Crock and another agent named Greg Anderson, is suspect and should be challenged in a legal forum. 

The Parole Board itself, if it is operating and on the up and up in Wershe’s case, should insist on a full airing of the facts and challenges to past assertions. But as Wershe’s attorney Ralph Musilli notes, no one in the system wants to put a stick of dynamite under THAT manure pile. So Rick Wershe continues to spend his life in prison while others similarly charged have been set free. He crossed the wrong people.

mation Act request e released from prison. But Wayne County Pr

mation Act request e released from prison. But Wayne County Pr

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rick Wershe, Jr. has two kinds of luck: Bad and none at all

 Why are so many people in the criminal justice system afraid—scared to death—of holding a hearing with witnesses and documents, to determine once and for all whether Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—known as White Boy Rick in the media—is a menace to society who deserves to remain in prison until he dies? A federal court in Grand Rapids is among the official entities determined NOT to explore the facts.

If it weren’t for bad luck, Rick Wershe, Jr. wouldn’t have any luck at all.

He’s had another setback in court. This time it involves the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan—which covers Grand Rapids, Michigan and environs. This is not to be confused with his state case. Last August and September there was a flurry of media coverage of his original state drug case in Detroit. That issue is now before the Michigan Supreme Court awaiting a decision.

The Grand Rapids case is different. Wershe is the one doing the suing in a civil case. I’ll try to avoid lawyer-ese and explain it in normal people terms.

In 2012 Wershe’s attorney, Ralph Musilli, filed a federal civil lawsuit against the Michigan Parole Board. It accused the board of violating Wershe’s constitutional rights by repeatedly refusing to consider him for parole even though he’s eligible due to changes in Michigan’s drug laws. What used to be a mandatory life sentence for possession of large amounts of cocaine has been changed to parolable-life. That is, after a certain portion of the sentence is served, the inmate is eligible for parole at the discretion of the state parole board.

Originally Rick Wershe, Jr. was sentenced in 1988 to life in prison without parole for possession of 17 pounds of cocaine. As Informant America has explained in previous posts, Wershe had been recruited by the FBI at age 14 to become a confidential informant against the Curry Brothers, a rising cocaine organization on Detroit’s east side. They recruited a 14-year old because he was known and trusted by the Currys as one of the kids from the neighborhood. He did a good job informing on the Curry organization. He also told FBI agents on a federal drug task force about police drug corruption, too. That led to a lifetime of trouble for Wershe.

In the minds of many cops a drug trafficker is a lowlife cockroach but a police informer who tells on dirty cops who are on the take from drug dealers is even more contemptible. Frequently, but not always, the cops on the take are narcs, narcotics officers, plainclothes cowboys who are often held in high regard in police circles. In most cases at least some of their fellow cops know these guys are dirty. But in that line of work, you never, ever rat on your own. If you are an honest cop you are supposed to look the other way. The pressure in police departments to ignore corruption is enormous. Just ask Frank Serpico, a famous ex-New York City narc. There was a movie about him, starring Al Pacino, and it featured a tagline that was not only memorable but insightful in terms of American law enforcement really works:
“Many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive. An honest cop.”

Frank Serpico: a dangerous cop...because he was honest. (Paramount movie poster)

Previous posts on Informant America have discussed the police corruption surrounding the Rick Wershe, Jr. case. There are strong reasons to believe Wershe remains in prison long after he was eligible for parole because there is an ongoing law enforcement/prosecution vendetta against him. The Michigan Parole Boards’ refusal year in and year out to give Wershe serious consideration for parole is the basis for suing them in federal court. It is a denial of his Constitutional rights, the lawsuit claims. The Wershe lawsuit argues it is a violation of his right to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and his right under the Eighth Amendment to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Court Judge Gordon Quist-Western District of Michigan

Initially, U.S. District judge Gordon Quist dismissed the case as frivolous litigation and 
threatened Ralph Musilli, Wershe’s attorney, with a fine.

Musilli appealed to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court issued an opinion in August, 2014. They agreed the due process part of the case didn’t have merit but they remanded, or sent, the case back to Judge Quist telling him he made a mistake "...because the district court failed to consider the impact of Wershe’s youth at the time of the crime and his arrest." Wershe was 17 when he was arrested, 18 when he went to prison for life. The appeals court said Quist had not considered how a U.S. Supreme Court decision called Graham-v- Florida applied to the Wershe parole matter. That 2010 decision said juveniles convicted in non-homicide cases cannot be sentenced to life without parole. 

The case has been sitting on the docket in Grand Rapids since August, 2014 without any action on the Court of Appeals opinion and order.

Recently, a Grand Rapids federal magistrate, reviewing the case for Judge Quist, concluded the Supreme Court’s Graham decision does not apply to the Wershe case because the Michigan criminal drug law was changed to life with parole. This totally ignores the facts—or lack of them—in the Wershe case. Five times since 2003 the Michigan Parole Board has refused to consider Wershe for parole. As a former parole board member observed, they are perpetuating his life sentence five years at a time. The magistrate, on the other hand, focused solely on the change in Michigan law, which in his view, satisfies the requirements of the Graham decision by the Supreme Court.

The federal magistrate, Ray Kent, recommended the Wershe civil suit be terminated. What he has done is give Judge Quist “cover” for avoiding the issues in the Wershe matter. The judge can dismiss Wershe’s lawsuit and say something like, “I’m following the recommendations of a federal magistrate who has thoroughly reviewed the matter.”

Well, no, he didn’t. The magistrate did no such thing. A fair review would have recommended that Musilli be allowed what is called discovery. That’s a court-authorized fact-finding effort. Claims by the State of Michigan that there are no facts to be discovered are totally bogus. Full court-authorized discovery might lead to all sorts of stinky things, shenanigans at the Parole Board, witnesses who lied and misled the Board at Rick’s 2003 hearing, and possible evidence of a long-running conspiracy to deny Rick Wershe his rights as retribution for informing on public corruption, as this blog has been reporting on for months. So why is the federal court in Grand Rapids going out of its way to avoid fact-finding in the Wershe case?

“That’s like putting a stick of dynamite under a pile of manure,” Musilli says. Very true.

Magistrate Kent’s extremely narrow focus on parolable life versus non-parolable life ignores the essential argument in the Wershe lawsuit. The validity of the Wershe sentence is not the issue. The issue is the fairness of keeping a man in prison for 28 years for a non-violent drug crime committed as a juvenile, when every other Michigan inmate charged under similar circumstances has been paroled. That sure sounds like unusual punishment as described in the U.S. Constitution. They've released all of the Michigan juvenile drug offenders who were given life sentences except one—Rick  Wershe.

And there are outrageous circumstances in this case of a juvenile who was sentenced to life in prison. Wershe, then a teenager, got involved with drugs only after law enforcement (the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force—OCDETF—task force) taught him the drug trade so he could be a better confidential informant. Federal agents and local police narcs taught him how to be a dope dealer. Furthermore, certain law enforcement/prosecution parties have made a determined effort to mislead the parole board regarding this guy's level of activity in the drug trade. It can be argued this official smear was done to ensure he remained in prison as payback for snitching on corrupt cops and the brother-in-law of the late mayor of Detroit.

Factual misrepresentations to the parole board have kept this man in prison unfairly. He has a false, fabricated reputation (White Boy Rick) that is used as a reason for keeping him in prison until he dies. This is more about retribution, about the abuse of the criminal justice system, than about which case law applies.

The systemic vendetta against Wershe is amazing. Contract murderers—hitmen—have been incarcerated, done time, and have been paroled in the time Wershe has been in prison. The State of Michigan and Wayne County have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid a full hearing on the question of whether this guy deserves to remain in prison long after others similarly charged have been paroled. They simply will not budge even in the face of challenges to the "evidence" presented in 2003.

It is a no-win situation for Wershe because, among other things, a commutation under Gov. Snyder is totally dependent upon the Parole Board that has steadfastly refused for years to grant him a new parole hearing. Snyder says he will rely on the Parole Board to "advise" him on a commutation for Wershe. So Snyder has tossed the matter back to an entity that is denying this guy his Constitutional rights. There is no way they will recommend a commutation. The practical result is Wershe has no rights. None. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman and Richard Wershe, Jr. - Two very different prisoners in the War on Drugs

Bizarre new revelations following the arrest last week in Mexico of supreme drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman can be enlightening for those interested in the Michigan imprisonment of Richard J. Wershe, Jr., and for those who believe the War on Drugs is a costly farce. Wershe has no ties to or association with any Mexican drug cartel but the way he’s been treated in the War on Drugs is in stark contrast to the shenanigans south of the border.

When humorist Dave Barry was writing his regular syndicated column about nutty things people do, one of his recurring lines was, “I swear I’m not making this up.”

I thought about that as I sat down to write this week’s Informant America blog post. Like Dave Barry, I swear I’m not making this up.

Last weekend, the media was abuzz with word that Mexico’s (and the world’s) Number One drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had been captured—again—by Mexican special forces in a bloody raid.

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman-Back in custody again. (Photo-NBC News)

Guzman had humiliated the Mexican government by escaping from prison—twice. Those prison breaks alone show the “War on Drugs” is a pitiful joke, but wait! There’s more!

Mexican authorities said the raid that snared Guzman was the result of an informant’s tip. 

But the next day Rolling Stone magazine came out with an exclusive interview with El Chapo by movie actor, sometime-activist and wannabe journalist Sean Penn. The Mexican government quickly shifted PR gears and said they knew all about the actor’s secret interview with Guzman in a Mexican jungle in October and that the interview led to El Chapo’s capture. They have yet to explain why, if they knew about the October interview, it took them from October to January recapture the fugitive Guzman.

Mexican soap opera actress Kate del Castillo. El Chapo Guzman, the world's most powerful drug lord got an erectile dysfunction implant in anticipation of meeting her.(Viva Photo)

The RollingStone/Sean Penn interview with Guzman, who was the world’s most wanted man, turns out to have been brokered by a sexy Mexican soap opera actress Guzman was hot to meet and woo. She had posted a comment on social media saying she thought Guzman was more truthful than the Mexican government. The drug kingpin was flattered and reached out to her through intermediaries to say he wanted to meet her to discuss a biopic movie about himself. The actress, Kate del Castillo, apparently seeing a career opportunity, contacted Sean Penn about Guzman’s desire to have a movie made about himself. A secret meeting was arranged for October in a jungle region of western Mexico.

Guzman and del Castillo had exchanged flirty text messages as the meeting was being set up. A Mexican newspaper obtained transcripts of the texts.

Guzman: “You’re the best in this world. … I’ll take care of everything so you’re comfortable. I will take care of you more than I do my own eyes."

del Castillo: "I am so moved to hear that you will take care of me. No one has ever taken care of me."

Later that day Guzman exchanged text messages with his lawyer.

Lawyer: “… she wants to bring along actor Sean Penn…. curious fact, he is the most renowned actor in Hollywood.”

An hour later Guzman sent another text to his lawyer.

Guzman: “What’s the name of that actor again?”

Lawyer: “Sean Penn.”

Sean What's-His-Name. He says his Rolling Stone interview of drug lord Joaquin Guzman failed because it didn't spark a national discussion of the War on Drugs. (Photo-60 Minutes)

El Chapo made some interesting preparations for his planned meeting with Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo. Even though Mexican authorities were supposedly conducting an intense, nationwide manhunt looking everywhere for him, sometime last September Guzman went to Tijuana, the border city adjacent to San Diego, and had erectile dysfunction surgery. The procedure was a new one involving a testicle implant which reportedly improves blood flood to the penis. The procedure required a general anesthetic but for some reason Guzman was not worried about getting captured while his balls were under the knife. He had the procedure and left Tijuana with some pain meds and pills for erectile dysfunction even though he had just had surgery for that problem. Apparently he wasn’t leaving anything to chance. He wanted to ensure he was up for the meeting a few weeks later with Kate del Castillo. Oh, and Guzman intended to be cordial to that American actor—what’s his name—Sean Penn.

In October Guzman shared tacos and tequila with Penn and del Castillo at a jungle hideaway and gave Penn a self-serving interview. The Mexican federales, Mexican special forces and their pals in the DEA were nowhere to be seen and Guzman remained on the lam.

I am not making this up.

It’s important to remember: the story of El Chapo is part of the U.S. War on Drugs. We’ve spent a trillion dollars and 45 years waging this modern version of Prohibition with the same level of success. 

The U.S. has the finest spy satellites and electronic intercept equipment in the world. U.S. spy satellites have long had the ability to see, from thousands of miles in space, the headlines on a newspaper being read by someone on a park bench on the ground.

The DEA and CIA have stunning electronic eavesdropping spyware in their arsenal. IMSI—International Mobile Subscriber Identity—devices can suck all the data from a targeted cell phone using a little box attached to a light pole. Yet, somehow, the warriors of the War on Drugs couldn’t find Joaquin El Chapo Guzman while he was just across the border in Tijuana having surgery for erectile dysfunction.

Some cynics and conspiracy buffs say that’s because the U.S. has been allowing Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel to continue doing business in exchange for actionable intelligence on rival Mexican drug cartels.

In 2014 a major Mexican newspaper, El Universal, reported the DEA had cut a deal with the Sinaloa cartel to continue shipping tons of cocaine to the United States in exchange for information the narcs could use to shut down rival Mexican cartels.

That seems a bit far-fetched but it is known that the DEA flipped one of Guzman’s top lieutenants and turned him into a snitch. Vicente Zambada-Niebla’s work as a DEA informant had to be known and tolerated by El Chapo, who is responsible for thousands of drug murders in Mexico as head of the Sinaloa cartel. Zambada-Niebla’s information presumably helped the DEA make some key arrests in exchange for favorable treatment in the courts. For El Chapo Guzman Zambada-Niebla’s work as a snitch for the DEA meant getting rid of some of the competition.

DEA’s kid-glove handling of Zambada-Niebla, who has been involved in massive, ton-level drug smuggling stands in stark contrast to the DEA’s treatment here in the U.S. of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. who has been described as perhaps the FBI’s most valuable informant in Detroit in terms of prosecutable cases. In fact, Wershe was so valuable the FBI, for a time, had Wershe in WitSec—the federal Witness Security program.

That may be part of the reason why Wershe remains in prison serving a life sentence when others in Michigan charged for similar crimes have been paroled. He was working for the FBI, not the DEA. 

The rivalry and competition between the FBI and DEA runs wide and deep ever since Congress gave the Bureau concurrent jurisdiction in the War on Drugs. The two most powerful federal law enforcement agencies are locked in competition to make big cases which help secure ever larger budgets.

When Wershe was put in the WitSec program he was moved to a federal prison outside Phoenix, Arizona. There he was housed with an array of headline-making inmates. The common denominator was they all had helped the Justice Department win major cases. Among Wershe’s fellow inmates in Phoenix were Carlos Lehder and Steve Kalish.

Carlos Lehder, one of the notorious drug lords of the Colombian Medellin Cartel. He and Rick Wershe were in prison together for a time.

You may remember Carlos Lehder. He was one of the founders of the legendary Medellin Cartel in Colombia. He was captured in 1987, the same year the DEA was helping Detroit Police narcs build a case against Rick Wershe. Some say a rival drug lord, the late Pablo Escobar, was the snitch who tipped the DEA and Colombian narcs on where to find Lehder. He was tried in the United States and sentenced to life without parole plus 135 years.

That didn’t last long. Lehder soon turned snitch himself and cut a deal with the Justice Department to testify against Panama’s leader, Manuel Noriega, who had also been busted for drug trafficking and had been brought to the United States for trial. Lehder’s sentence was reduced to 55 years and he was put in the WitSec program along with Rick Wershe.

One of Wershe’s fellow WitSec inmates was a preppy-looking drug trafficker named Steve Kalish

Steve Kalish-he bribed Panama's Manuel Noriega, got busted, then testified against Noriega in exchange for a sentence reduction. In other words, he became another high profile snitch. Rick Wershe said Kalish made a stock market fortune while they were in prison together.

Steve Kalish, along with Leigh Ritch and Michael Vogel of Michigan, established a massive, thriving marijuana smuggling operation that began with ocean-borne smuggling and eventually took to the air with the help of CIA pilots who were flying guns to the Contras in Nicaragua and flying back under CIA protection with cargo planes loaded with bales of marijuana. Does the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan years ring a bell? This was part of it. But the DEA wasn’t involved in this investigation. It was an FBI case. Kalish, Ritch and Vogel were all prosecuted and sent to prison.

The Kalish-Ritch-Vogel organization had bribed Panama’s Manuel Noriega to facilitate their smuggling operation. They even bought Noriega a jet for his personal use. All of this was documented in a series of hearings by then-Senator John Kerry. Kalish, like Carlos Lehder, rolled over and became a government witness against Panama’s Noriega. Kalish got his sentenced reduced and he wound up in the same Arizona WitSec unit as Lehder and Rick Wershe.

Rick Wershe tells me he remembers Lehder liked to talk about the costs and profits of the drug smuggling business. Kalish, on the other hand, busied himself playing the stock market using a satellite-linked device he was allowed to have in his cell. Hey. You help the U.S. government make a big, politically-potent drug case, you get all kinds of breaks. Kalish, by all accounts, has a good head for business. Wershe believes Kalish made a fortune in the stock market while doing time in prison. He’s now out.

While Wershe was in the WitSec program in Arizona, a pair of Detroit DEA agents came to visit. They begged him to come back to Detroit and testify before a federal grand jury investigating the Best Friends murder-for-hire drug gang. Wershe agreed to help the DEA. He was flown back to Detroit where he remembers Assistant U.S. Attorney James King promising he would go “balls to the wall” to help Wershe with his state life prison sentence if he would just help the DEA and the Detroit U.S. Attorney’s office nail the Best Friends organization. Wershe kept his end of the bargain. He testified against the Best Friends, who were convicted. King didn’t keep his end of the bargain. As near as can be determined he did nothing to help Wershe with his state conviction.

Eventually the DEA rewarded Wershe for his help with the Best Friends case by permitting two agents to testify AGAINST his parole in a 2003 hearing. The U.S. Attorney’s office rewarded him, Wershe says, by leaking his sealed grand jury testimony to the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. Wershe believes that information was used against him in questioning at his 2003 parole hearing, despite a signed agreement from an assistant United States Attorney promising the information provided by him would not be used against him. Interestingly, three former Detroit FBI agents testified in Wershe's behalf and urged his release on parole at that 2003 hearing. So there were three FBI agents testifying FOR Rick Wershe and two DEA agents testifying AGAINST Rick Wershe. Apparently no one on the Michigan Parole Board thought this was strange and worthy of further inquiry. A transcript of that hearing reads like a proceeding in a kangaroo court.

One of the witnesses at the 2003 parole hearing, former Detroit Police Homicide Inspector William Rice has signed a sworn affidavit stating he was shown Wershe’s sealed grand jury testimony in preparation for his testimony against Wershe at the parole hearing.

If true, this was a felony. Leaking court-sealed grand jury testimony is a crime. Of course, no one can be prosecuted now because the statute of limitations is long past. And no one, including the federal courts, seems interested in finding out what the hell happened.

So Rick Wershe remains in prison, beginning his 28th year behind bars. Steve Kalish is in Texas living off the stock market fortune he made while in prison with Wershe. Carlos Lehder is believed to be in prison somewhere in the WitSec program.

The DEA is doing heaven-knows-what in Mexico where the world’s top drug kingpin got sex enhancement surgery without getting caught by the Mexican federals and the DEA. Talk about impotence.

Maria Teresa Osario de Serna - she has replaced Joaquin Guzman as the DEA's Most Wanted.

Guzman is back in prison—for now. He’s been replaced on the DEA’s International Most Wanted list by a mysterious Colombian woman named Maria Teresa Osorio de la Serna who is reputed to be a world-class money launderer for the drug cartels. She either lives in Colombia or Hileah, Florida. The DEA isn’t sure which.

Meanwhile, Sean Penn is on 60 Minutes tonight complaining his big scoop interview with Joaquin El Chapo Guzman “failed” because it didn’t spark a national debate on the War on Drugs.

And the band played on…  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The latest follies from the War on Drugs

For nearly a year Informant America has been revealing the criminal justice system deceptions, misrepresentations and outright lies about Richard J. Wershe, Jr. He’s lived for nearly three decades under the libel and slander that he was a drug lord and drug kingpin. Law enforcement mendacity isn’t unique to Rick Wershe. This weekend the papers have featured front-page news about the capture (re-capture) of the world’s most notorious drug dealer. Like the Rick Wershe story, if you look closely, something’s not right about the official story.   

You can’t make this stuff up. That popular aphorism certainly applies to events this weekend in the endless War on Drugs.

In case you haven’t heard, there was news out of Mexico on Friday that drug cartel kingpin and serial prison escapee Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured by Mexican Navy special forces in a deadly pre-dawn raid in Los Mochis, a city on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Five people died in the firefight surrounding the operation.

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in Mexican police custody - again. (Photo: CNN)

"Mission accomplished: we have him. I want to inform Mexicans that Joaquín Guzmán Loera has been arrested," Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico tweeted. Guzman is widely regarded as the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. He is the head of the Sinaloa cartel and is reputed to have a net worth of one billion dollars.

Just like George W. Bush’s famous 2003 “mission accomplished” claim regarding the war in Iraq, the “mission accomplished” Guzman capture story is not what it appears on the surface. And just like the premature Bush proclamation of victory in Iraq, the capture of Guzman hardly qualifies as “mission accomplished” in the 40-year war on drugs.

The Mexican government told reporters the arrest of Guzman was the result of a tip—more “success” as the result of a tip from an informant! But like the saga of Rick Wershe, Jr. there is a lot more to the Guzman capture than the authorities are admitting.

Actor Sean Penn found El Chapo when the entire army of the War on Drugs couldn't. (Rolling Stone)

On Saturday, the day after the Guzman capture, Rolling Stone magazine came out with an exclusive interview with the Mexican drug lord obtained by movie actor Sean Penn last October. The Mexican government shifted gears and told the Associated Press the Sean Penn interview led to Guzman’s capture.

There is no link between Joaquin Guzman and Rick Wershe, Jr. except this: the official line about this guy doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. Law enforcement didn’t tell the truth about Wershe in the late 1980s. We are now in the first month of 2016 and once again we are not getting a straight story from the front lines of the War on Drugs.  

Consider recent history: El Chapo—Shorty— Guzman was the most wanted man in the world after his bold escape from a Mexican prison through an elaborate and costly tunnel constructed under the prison by his associates. It was his second prison escape. In the international drug trafficking trade Guzman was first among equals, the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

Mexican authorities assisted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and American’s considerable electronic eavesdropping technology could not find the fugitive drug dealer. Stories surfaced in the media that Guzman had fled to Guatemala where he was re-establishing his drug empire.

But Sean Penn managed to find him, with the help of Mexican actress Kate del Castillo who has played the role of a drug dealer on a Mexican soap opera. She also tweeted support for Guzman in the past. Apparently, El Chapo noticed and got the bright idea of brokering a biopic movie about himself. Through intermediaries he contacted the actress who contacted Sean Penn who flew to Mexico and met with Guzman in a jungle hideout where they shared tacos and tequila. Some reports say Guzman was keen to meet the glamorous Mexican actress as part of the process.

Mexican actress Kate del Castillo - the world's most powerful drug lord was hot to meet her. (Photo: Rolling Stone)

There was even video of Joaquin Guzman answering questions with a rooster crowing in the background. As noted at the start of this post, you can’t make this stuff up.

Attorneys and film industry production professionals got involved in the “secret” negotiations and concluded a biopic about Guzman might be too difficult to produce. The interview with Penn for Rolling Stone was the alternative.

If Sean Penn’s interview with Guzman led to his arrest, why did it take from October, when the interview was done, to early January to make the arrest? Where have Mexican authorities been all this time? Is it coincidence the Mexican special forces just happened to find Guzman the day before the Rolling Stone article was published? Did Rolling Stone rush the publication of the article because of the arrest? Why did the Mexican government change its story from one day to the next about how the arrest went down?

Whatever the truth is about the Joaquin Guzman manhunt and capture, we don’t know it. Whatever the truth is about Rick Wershe, Jr., the reputed drug lord and kingpin we don’t know it, at least not completely. Bits and pieces are coming in to focus as the War on Drugs slogs forward and Wershe continues his life sentence while others similarly charged have been paroled. "Officials" have steadfastly refused to explain why Wershe should be treated differently. What we know is that Wershe helped the FBI prosecute corrupt cops and the brother-in-law of the late mayor of the City of Detroit. 

If the War on Drugs weren’t so tragic it would be funny. That brings us to a weekend Hollywood awards show.  

In the Golden Globes awards Sunday night, host Ricky Gervais zinged Penn and his Guzman interview in his opening monologue. The British comedian said he wanted to finish his opening segment then go in to hiding “where not even Sean Penn can find me.” He followed with a dig at Penn. “Snitch,” Gervais called him.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Will 2016 be Rick Wershe's year for justice?

For nearly a year Informant America has been documenting the falsity of the legend that Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was a drug lord and kingpin in Detroit’s criminal underworld in the late 1980s. The myth has persisted for nearly 30 years. It has calcified and turned to stone. Perhaps 2016 will be the year that the legend of White Boy Rick dies and the man, Richard J. Wershe, Jr., finally gets justice and release from his life prison term.

There’s an old saying; the more things change the more they stay the same. The credit for that observation goes to Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, a French journalist and commentator in the 1800s.

That’s certainly true of police corruption in the costly fiasco we call the War on Drugs.

Over the holidays Detroit News police beat reporter George Hunter wrote a story about an attempt on the life of a federal informant who provided evidence against two Detroit narcs who are under indictment for stealing drugs from drug dealers and giving the contraband to selected DPD informants to sell. The federal informant was shot while driving on a Detroit freeway. Hunter reports the informant against the indicted cops and other witnesses have been relocated for their safety.

The indicted police officers, Lt. David “Hater” Hansberry and Bryan “Bullet” Watson are accused of robbing Detroit drug dealers and keeping the drugs which they allegedly gave to favored informants to sell.

This kind of thing is not new. It has been going on for decades. In street jargon it is known as tippin’ and rippin’. Corrupt cops “tip over” or raid a suspected drug house and steal or rip off the drugs they find. The raid is off the books. There’s no court-authorized search warrant, there’s no evidence trail or paperwork filed. Officially the raid never happened. It is armed robbery by the police, plain and simple. It’s done by narcs sworn to uphold the law. Guys who swagger around cop bars bragging they are on the front line of law and order.

Regular readers of Informant America may recall a recent (October 25, 2015) post titled Rick Wershe and the Police Culture of Lying. In that post I wrote about retired FBI Special Agent Herm Groman’s recollection of attending a police party on Detroit’s Belle Isle for a narc who was getting transferred. Groman was Rick Wershe’s FBI “handler” during most of the years Wershe was working as a confidential informant or CI. 

The Detroit narc who was the guest of honor at the party was known by the nickname Popeye and his “present” from his fellow narcotics officers was a shirt with numerous extra pockets sewn on it. The joke was based on Popeye’s reputation for routinely helping himself to fists full of cash he found during narcotics raids; money he did not turn in as evidence in the aftermath of the raid. Popeye was a thief and his buddies and pals in the Detroit Police Narcotics Section knew it. And they looked the other way as they have done so many times over the years when faced with corruption among their fellow officers.

That same post recounted how the late Gerard “Mick” Biernacki, a member of the team that made the drug case against Rick Wershe was known among other cops as “Pinocchio” for his habit of lying under oath in court. Biernacki was legendary for making up whatever he thought would convince a judge and jury. The nickname Pinocchio was based upon a wooden puppet in a famous children’s fairy tale. Pinocchio's nose would grow every time he told a lie. Like the narcs who looked the other way when Popeye would steal money during crack house raids, the narcs who worked with Biernacki looked the other way when he committed perjury, which is a felony. Presumably a cop who commits a felony in the pursuit of law and order is somehow morally superior to the civilian criminals he arrests and sends to prison with perjured testimony. Some people can rationalize anything.

These were two tales of police corruption in the 1980s.

Another Informant America post, Rick Wershe Jr. and the 10th Precinct Conspiracy recalled a Detroit police narcotics corruption case from the 1970s and noted the parallels between that scandal and the police corruption encountered by Rick Wershe, Jr. when he was working secretly for the FBI.

A team of Detroit narcs from the 10th Precinct were indicted and tried on charges of corruption. The leader of the precinct narcotics crew was Sgt. Rudy Davis, who was eventually convicted and sent to prison. The headline of a April 29, 1973 Detroit Free Press profile of Rudy Davis read: "No. 1 Raider's Sideline: Selling Dope to Pushers."

Former Detroit Police Sgt. Rudy Davis (Detroit Free Press photo)

The accusations against Sgt, Davis in the 1970s were remarkably similar to the charges in 2015 against Lt. Hansberry and Officer Watson. 

Yet the public is supposed to believe some Detroit narcs when they claim Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was a drug “kingpin” and a “drug lord” who is a menace to society and should remain behind bars for the rest of his life. In numerous posts last year Informant America has shown there is no factual evidence behind the legend of White Boy Rick Wershe, Jr. It’s a pile of lies intended to make him out to be something he never was. There is ample reason to believe the Detroit/Wayne County upholders of criminal “justice” concocted the White Boy Rick myth to justify keeping him in prison for life for helping the FBI prosecute Mayor Coleman Young’s brother-in-law and some politically wired cops. Rick Wershe is not innocent and never claimed to be. But he’s telling the truth when he says some narcs flat-out lied about his role in the Detroit drug underworld. And Wershe is right to wonder why so many people in today’s criminal “justice” system are working so hard to keep him in prison when others similarly charged have been released on parole.

Let me add one final note to begin the New Year. I am not anti-cop. Anyone who knows me knows that. My oldest son is a federal agent. One of my grandsons is in a training academy to become a police officer. I have been the emcee at countless police retirement parties. Cops have been guests in my home many times. They’ve eaten my food. They’ve guzzled my booze. Some are life-long friends. The trouble with me, for some cops, is that I’m a true believer in law-and-order. I believe there is a reason we put the word “law” ahead of the word “order.” I believe following the law and not breaking the law is what separates the good guys from the bad guys. A cop or prosecutor who commits a felony to make a case against a bad guy is just another felon in my book. They all deserve to go to prison.

Prosecution and justice are not interchangeable words. In the case of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. he’s been prosecuted but he hasn’t had any justice. Maybe 2016 will be different.