'White Boy Rick' Wershe Jr, FBI's youngest paid drug informant at 19, released after 32 years of imprisonment

Richard Wershe who was employed by the FBI in his early teens to help them as a secret informant, was arrested in 1987 for possessing cocaine

                            'White Boy Rick' Wershe Jr, FBI's youngest paid drug informant at 19, released after 32 years of imprisonment
(Representational Image/Getty Images)

At a time when the world celebrated the birth anniversary of the iconic Nelson Mandela, a man in Florida also tasted freedom after going through the same ordeal like the famous South African leader -- decades of imprisonment. Richard J Wershe Jr, more commonly called 'White Boy Rick', was on Monday (July 20) released from custody in Florida since his incarceration 32 years ago. Wershe, 19 then, was the youngest paid drug informant in the history of the FBI.

Wershe, who was released from a residential work-release program in Kissimmee as the state’s Department of Corrections confirmed, has been behind bars since 1988 for his involvement in a non-violent drug crime. He was one of the FBI’s most productive paid-drug informants who started working undercover for the agency in Detroit at the age of 14. He was arrested in 1987 when he was aged just 17 after being found possessing 17 pounds of cocaine and cash wirth $30,000. He was later convicted of possession with an intent to supply more than 650 grams of cocaine. Initially, the then teenager was handed a life prison without a parole but drug laws changed later that bettered the chances of him getting a supervised release. 

Wershe’s controversial story has not gone unnoticed all these years. It has inspired the creation of a number of books and films, including the 2018 feature film ‘White Boy Rick’, including Matthew McConaughey. Ralph Musili, the attorney of Wershe, told reporters that the man was anxious to return home. He added that Wershe’s “head is in a good place” and with all the support, he is ready to return to the real world.

Wershe was the longest-serving non-violent juvenile offender in the history of Michigan. He was kept at Oaks Correctional facility till 2017 before the parole board transferred him over to US Marshals. He was then sent to Florida to serve for a 2006 conviction for his role in a car-theft ring. The crimes took place while he was imprisoned in the state under the federal witness protection program, the Daily Mail reported. 

Wershe's father put his son's life at risk for money

Wershe, son of a notorious con-artist Ron Wershe Sr, had a unique childhood. As he grew up in the ghettos of Detroit, the boy became friendly with a number of local drug dealers by the time he reached his early teens. The FBI then picked him to work as a secret informant. His father brokered the deal whereby he agreed to put his minor son’s life at stake in exchange of money. 

“I took the money. I wasn’t doing all that well at the time,” Wershe Sr. told Atavist Magazine later. “And I thought it was the right thing – keep some drug dealers off the street and get paid for it.” Wershe fulfilled the FBI's mission as he gathered massive information about the city’s highest-ranking drug dealers and was also taught by the law-enforcement officials on how to pedal drugs. He also worked inside one of the city’s most dangerous gangs. 
At the age of 15, Wershe told the FBI that major dealer Johnny Curry had spoken of paying a bribe to Detroit’s detective inspector to scrap an investigation into the killing of a 13-year-old boy. After Curry was convicted and sent to prison, he conceded of having paid Detroit Police Homicide Inspector Gilbert ‘Gil’ Hill $10,000 to squander the murder investigation. 

Wershe was even shot in his stomach while working as the informant and helped in sending several corrupt police officers to prison. A year after the FBI excluded him as an informant without warning in 1986, he was arrested on charges of drug possession.

His former handler Herman Groman told the Daily Beast the FBI and Justice Department didn't help because they were afraid of being criticized for using a teen to bring down the drug mafia.

"I told on the wrong people,' he told the Daily Beast in 2017, expressing how he has missed out on a lot of time with his two daughters and son, who are now in their 30s. "I've lost a lot of my life to things that aren't true," he told the Detroit News the same year. "I was never the drug dealer ... who was this huge kingpin. That couldn't be more wrong. I sold drugs for 11 months," he tried to explain.

Much of Wershe's time in prison was spent in the federal Witness Security Program, as a result of his informant work.