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A Michigan man whose decades in prison for drug dealing and work as an informant inspired the movie White Boy Rick filed a lawsuit on Tuesday seeking $100 million in damages, claiming he was coerced into helping cops while just a helpless teenager.
Richard Wershe Jr., 52, served roughly 30 years in prison in Michigan before his release in 2017, followed by a few more years in a Florida prison.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Detroit, comes on the first anniversary of his releases from a Florida prison in 2020 for an unrelated crime.
Wershe’s lawsuit alleges his troubles in the 1980s were related to the pressures of pleasing local cops and federal agents who used him as an informant, sending him into drug dens and abandoning him when he got in legal trouble.
‘The justice system hasn´t been fair to me over the last 33 years,’ Wershe said. ‘This needed to be done. The truth absolutely needed to be told. … Everything that we say will be backed up by documents and FBI agents.’
Richard Wershe Jr., pictured in 2015, served roughly 30 years in prison in Michigan and is now suing police claiming he was coerced into helping cops
Wershe is pictured as a teenager after having served as an FBI informant
Wershe’s life was detailed in the 2018 American biographical crime drama film White Boy Rick starring Matthew McConaughey and Richie Merritt
His attorney, Nabih Ayad, acknowledged that Detroit and others named in the lawsuit will likely argue that Wershe’s constitutional claims are too old to bring to court.
‘This is a unique case,’ the suit reads. ‘Our Constitution, our justice system, and God-given right to all humanity calls on this court to finally bring justice to a man whose life has been taken from him at the tender age of 14 all the way up to 51 years of age.’
Detroit police spokesman Rudy Harper declined to comment, saying the department hasn’t seen the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, broken into ‘chapters,’ reads like an autobiographic retelling of the story detailed in the 2018 American biographical crime drama film White Boy Rick starring Matthew McConaughey and Richie Merritt. The title referred to Wershe’s nickname in his younger days, a nickname he dislikes.
The film, which received a score of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, follows young Wershe as an FBI informant before he ‘gets in too deep’ and ‘finds himself seduced by the lure of easy money and becomes a drug dealer himself,’ according to its summary.
Wershe’s saga began in the 1980’s when his sister started dating a known drug dealer and his father contacted the FBI to ask for help getting the drug dealer out of her life, according to the lawsuit.
FBI Agent James Jim Dixon met with Wershe’s father at a McDonalds In 1984 and agreed to help the family if his father could identify people in photographs the agent had brought with him to the restaurant.
Wershe, who was at the meeting with his father, helped Dixon identify most of the people in the photographs because he knew of them from neighborhood gossip, according to the lawsuit.
Dixon was allegedly impressed with Wershe, who was then just 14. Just days after the meeting, the FBI agent allagedly drove up alongside the young teen as he walked home from school and told the boy to get in his car.
Wershe ‘felt compelled to do as he was told by this law enforcement agent, a figurative and literal authority figure’ and continued to ‘comply’ with demands from Dixon, the lawsuit alleges.
‘Mr. Dixon’s unannounced visits with [Wershe] quickly became a regular occurrence, occurring dozens of times over the course of the next several months,’ the lawsuit reads.
Dixon allegedly started to introduce Wershe to other law enforcement from both the FBI and the Detroit Police Department that were part of a joint taskforce.
‘At no point during his time working as a confidential informant did [Wershe] feel he was free to disobey the taskforce officers when they demanded he get into their vehicles,’ the lawsuit reads.
Wershe alleges that police and federal agents would pay him with cash to keep him quiet about their ‘abuse.’ He claims that taskforce agents would hide that they were using him as a source by crediting information to his father, Richard Wershe Sr.
Dixon allegedly introduced Wershe to his coworker FBI Agent Herman Groman in August 1984, who ‘began accosting’ the young teen ‘multiple times a week’ while he walked to school, friends’ houses and the basketball court.
‘Unlike Dixon, Groman asked for [Wershe] to act as more than just an informant and began having [him] engage in extremely more dangerous criminal drug-related activity,’ the lawsuit alleges.
Agent Groman then allegedly introduced Wershe to DPD officers Billy Jasper and Kevin Greene, who were part of the task force.
The taskforce agents pressured the young Wershe, who was ‘hesitant’ to keep working as an informant, ‘to continue down this dangerous path.’
‘[Wershe], at the tender age of 15 years, was of a malleable and impressionable mindset and did what the FBI agent and DPD officers demanded he do,’ the lawsuit reads.
The agents allegedly demanded Wershe to enter ‘drug houses he did not know, in areas of the city he did not know, and ask to buy drugs from people he did not know’ and assured him they would be there if something went wrong.
The lawsuit claims Wershe did not ‘comprehend’ that the task force would not have been able to save him if ‘one of the many violent drug dealers or their criminal henchmen decide to shoot [him] for nosing in on their drug operation.’
Groman, Jasper, and Greene would allegedly pick Wershe up to go buy drugs then ordered the teen to sell them the remainder after taking small samplings.
Wershe’s allegedly sanctioned drug dealing frequently put the teen in the same place as Johnny Curry – the leader of a dangerous drug-trafficking gang known as the Curry Gang or the Curry Brothers Gang.
‘It is no surprise that then that [Wershe] likely raised suspicion amongst these dangerous criminals, who likely suspected him to be an informant,’ the lawsuit reads.
In November 1984, there was an assignation attempt on Wershe in which he was reportedly ‘shot at point blank range with a .357 magnum, cutting his large intestine in half and only surviving by the grace of God.’
The taskforce agents visited Wershe in the hospital ‘for the sole purpose of persuading and coercing him into lying about the circumstances of his attempted assassination,’ the lawsuit reads
‘Instead of pulling him out, they further endangered him by coercing him to stay a confidential informant,’ the lawsuit reads.
Wershe was allegedly told to cover up his attempted murder to ‘greatly increase’ his street credibility as the taskforce started to give the young teen more ‘jobs.’
He was even allegedly given a fake ID stating he was 21 and sent to Las Vegas with thousands of dollars of cash, to go undercover.
The taskforce cut ties with Wershe when he was 16 after he had allegedly already grown in notoriety as a ‘drug kingpin’ and had helped them secure 20 convictions including members of the Curry Gang.
Wershe had also told authorities that one drug dealer admitted to paying off Detroit cops and politicians to stop the investigation into the murder of a 13-year-old boy.
The teen was allegedly often a target from gang members and cops alike, as the lawsuit details a number of times ‘hitmen’ tried targeting him – including a drive-by shooting at his father’s house.
In 1987, Wershe – then 17 – was arrested for possessing cocaine in excess of eight kilograms and the media coverage of ‘White Boy Rick’ exploded.
While driving to his grandmother’s house with a friend, Wershe was pulled over by Detroit Police and he let them search his car, the lawsuit reads.
However, the cops ‘became aggressive’ with Wershe and his friend so he ‘did as any child would do, and ran away,’ the lawsuit reads.
Cops caught up to Wershe an hour later and allegedly pistol-whipped him so badly that he had to be hospitalized overnight at Detroit Receiving Hospital.
While he was hospitalized, cops allegedly received a 911 call tipping them off to a large box full of cocaine that was later used as evidence against him in the case that put him in prison for 32 years and 7 months.
Wershe became a local and national celebrity, ‘easily recognized and often followed and photographed by Detroit news reporters,’ the lawsuit reads.
The teen was sentenced under Michigan’s 650-lifer law, which was passed in 1978 and had mandated that anyone convicted of possessing 650 grams of cocaine or more be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
While Wershe was in prison in 1991, Groman allegedly introduced him to former Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Hellend – who is also named as a defendant on the lawsuit.
Wershe’s lawyer Ayad told The Detroit News: ‘We didn’t want to include Helland but we had no way around it as he made promises to Rick. He did want to help Rick, but his hands (were) tied.’
Groman and Hellend allegedly wanted Wershe ‘to play a key role’ in a large sting operation called Operation Backbone ‘to take down corrupt Detroit Police and politicians, among others.’
Wershe, then 20, initially did not want to participate but agreed to help when Hellend and Groman allegedly offered to ‘do everything in their power’ to get him released from prison, the lawsuit reads.
The sting operation was a success and Hellend arranged to have Wershe placed in the witness protection program while in prison. Wershe was later denied parole in 2003 after Hellend allegedly ‘reneged’ on the agreement.
Wershe pleaded guilty in 2006 to being involved in a car theft ring while he behind bars in Michigan.
According to WDIV-TV, Wershe had introduced his sister Dawn to a car salesman to help her buy and sell cars. Dawn reportedly made $6,000 total off selling three or four cars.
He later admitted he knew some of the cars were stolen and pleaded guilty to protect his sister and mother from criminal charges, the Detroit Free Press reported.
‘They said, ‘Listen, this is what we’re going to do. If you don’t take this plea, we are going to arrest your mom and your sister,’ Wershe said in 2017. ‘It was a forced plea. I don’t agree I committed the crime that I was convicted of.’
Wershe’s father, who was also an informant for the FBI, died while he was in prison. .
When Wershe was paroled in 2017, his sister Dawn said: ‘We’re overjoyed and it’s long overdue is the way we feel.’
According to the Detroit News, Groman and FBI agent Gregg Schwarz have often spoken in the past on behalf of Wershe while he sought to be freed from prison.
‘Groman tried later [to help Wershe] but the damage had already been done,’ Ayad told The Detriot News on Tuesday.