Why Is This Man Still in Jail? - Page 2

By Seth Ferranti 01/20/13

Federal agents yanked Richard Wershe from high school and groomed him as a high-profile drug dealer. When he transformed into the notorious White Boy Rick, the feds turned their backs. Now he's doing life in jail.

"White Boy Rick" Wershe during his 1988 trial

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White Boy Rick had been locked up by the DPD on a trumped-up charge, so he turned on his former handlers in the police department, including then-Chief William Hart, Sergeant James Harris, and the mayor’s brother-in-law, Willie Volson, along with several other Detroit police officers. Wershe claimed the had been involved in unloading and guarded fake cocaine shipments from a plane at Detroit City Airport. Officers sealed the airport perimeter and gave the drug dealers—who were actually undercover FBI agents—a police radio to help them avoid detection. Rick had "vouched" for the FBI agents to the corrupt cops. The subsequent police corruption case was the largest in Detroit history.

"The events surrounding the incarceration of Richard Wershe in 1987 are a classic example of abuse of power and political corruption," says retired FBI agent Gregg Schwarz, who worked on the police corruption sting. Schwarz claims that the agents who promised Rick something in return for his cooperation in the sting reneged on their deal.

Wershe is credited with helping the government disrupt several of the Detroit's most brutal drug gangs in the '80s, including 30 members of the "Best Friends" crack-dealing crew, whom agents say killed more than 80 people. Wershe's cooperation into the police corruption case led to 14 convictions of law enforcement officers and public officials. Ironically, some of the most notorious drug dealers and killers that White Boy Rick helped convict—as well as all the policemen—now are free. 

The truth of the matter is that White Boy Rick helped law enforcement crack some of the most notorious drug crimes in Detroit. "I never imagined I would still be sitting here in prison," Rick says. "I'm here because of the misinformation that's been given to the parole board, the lies—agents said under oath that I never worked for the Detroit Police Department, they said I never worked for the government, that I was this huge drug dealer. The FBI and police lied about this for more than two decades. I just want the truth to finally come out." According to Wershe and other, the truth is that the feds used a kid to do their dirty work and then lied about it to cover it up.

White Boy Rick is a poster child for what is wrong with the War on Drugs. How is it possible that a confidential informant, who provided valuable information to multiple agencies of a federal task force and who was supplied with drugs, money and assistance by the feds to facilitate narcotic transactions still be locked up after 25 years of incarceration? It's a good question. Sadly, there are no acceptable answers.

Seth Ferranti is serving 25 years for drug trafficking. He's a columnist for The Fix. To learn more about prisoners, check out gorillaconvict.com. Seth's new book, Gorilla Convict, a compilation of his writing about prison gangs, the mafia, hip-hop and hustling, is now available. 

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.