Informant-turned-drug dealer 'White Boy Rick' Wershe remains behind bars

1980s kingpin helped Feds bust dirty cops, Coleman Young's relatives

By Kevin Dietz - Reporter, Jeff Wattrick - Web Editor, John Steckroth - Editor

DETROIT - Hollywood is making a movie about his life. Musician Kid Rock has fought for his freedom. Yet 26 years after his conviction on a drug charge, Richard Wershe (a.k.a. "White Boy Rick") is still behind bars.

Wershe went to prison at age 17. Now at age 45, even after the years of good behavior, he is no closer to being released.

Wershe has served more prison time than any juvenile offender in Michigan history.

"There is someone or something that is keeping me in prison and it's not the crime that I committed," he said.

The skinny Detroit kid with blond hair was arrested for selling eight kilos of cocaine and a judge sent him to prison for life without the possibility of parole, a standard for criminals caught with over 650 grams of cocaine back in 1988.

The Michigan Constitution no longer allows life sentences without parole for minors arrested on drug charges. Wershe's sentence was changed to allow the possibility of parole.

But there's more Wershe's story than street dealing. He was also an informant for a number of police agencies, both local and federal, since age 14.

The crack epidemic led to a wild west scene in Detroit and Wershe quickly learned from some of the most infamous criminals of the 1980s how to run a successful drug dealing business.

Wershe became involved with the Curry organization before kingpin Johnny Curry, along with his brother Leo, were sentenced to 20 years. They have both since been released from prison.

After the Curry brothers went to jail, Wershe began moving up the ranks and soon controlled much of the crack trade on Detroit's east side.

Wershe soon began dating Curry's wife, Cathy Volsen, who was also the niece of former Mayor Coleman Young.

Wershe's success soon ran out when the DEA targeted Wershe's operation, orchestrating drug buys and executing search warrants which ultimately led to his arrest.

Early into serving his prison sentence, Wershe was convicted of participating in a stolen car ring from behind bars. In an interview Local 4 did back in 1990, Wershe said he had made mistakes but was willing to make up for it by turning in some of Detroit's most powerful people.

White Boy Rick

In an attempt to shorten his prison time, Wershe began assisting the FBI as an informant, ultimately resulting in the conviction of corrupt police officers in the Detroit area.

"I embarrassed a lot of people," said Wershe. "All I did was what I was asked and all I did was tell the truth."

The information provided by Wershe led to the arrests of family and friends of Coleman Young, including his favorite bodyguard Jimmy Harris, his brother-in-law Willie Volsen, and his niece Cathy Volsen.

"He was extremely upset at me," said Wershe. "I thought any mayor would love to have corrupt cops off of their force but to Coleman Young, I was a stool pigeon."

Gregg Schwarz was the FBI agent who turned Wershe's information into new arrests and says that Wershe should have been thanked by the Michigan Parole Board and released from prison.

Wershe also provided information on one of Detroit's most popular cops, Gil Hill, a homicide boss that allegedly helped a drug dealer cover up the shooting death of a 12-year-old. Wershe claims he heard a phone call between Hill and the murderer.

"Basically Gil told him everything that was going on and that he had it under control and that he would be in touch and not to worry about anything," said Wershe.

Hill was investigated but never charged.

Wershe also provided help to the Wayne County Prosecutors Office. Mayor Mike Duggan, who was a prosecutor at the time, along with Mike Cox who went on to become attorney general, was assigned to find out what Wershe knew about the murder Hill was accused of covering up.

"I spoke to Mr. Cox three or four times at length about the murder," said Wershe. "I explained everything to him and basically he was more worried about whose names were going to be brought up in prosecuting the murder."

At Wershe's one and only parole hearing in 2003, all the promises made to him were broken and parole was denied. Duggan wrote a scathing letter recommending parole be denied and U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins rescinded his recommendation for release.

"Everybody told me I had nothing to worry about," said Wershe. "No one would oppose my release. Then all at once, it seemed like the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, the DEA, and Jeffrey Collins from the U.S. Attorney's Office all had something bad to say about me."

Wershe's attorney wants an investigation into the parole board and is asking the federal courts to intervene.

"White Boy Rick" is still serving his life sentence in the Manistee Michigan prison. His next parole board hearing is scheduled for 2017.

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