How the FBI Convicted a Minor: “White Boy Rick”

He served the longest sentence of any minor convicted in Michigan history. His story continues to mesmerize people today, so much so that a movie was made about his past, with Matthew McConaughey starring in it.

In 1984, at just 14 years old, Rick Wershe Jr. was assisting the FBI as a drug informant. He led the federal government to arrest several high-profile drug dealers in America’s crime capital, Detroit. 

But after he found out that the police were involved in conspiracy and corruption involving a drug lord and the mayor, the FBI parted ways with Wershe Jr.

Wershe Jr. turned to the only thing he knew–drug dealing. He was found in possession of 17 pounds of cocaine. 

When he went to the FBI to appeal, they turned a blind eye to him. Wershe Jr. was sentenced to life in prison. 

The story of “White Boy Rick,” a name that was given to him by the Detroit media after his arrest, continues to be a hot topic today about the cold truths of what working with the FBI can entail, and the fact they are never on anyone’s side.

Rick Wershe Jr., left, and his attorney in 1988. Detroit Free Press

Wersche’s Early Life

Rick Wershe Jr. always had an attachment to danger, before he was even a teenager. 

He grew up with a working-class family just outside downtown Detroit when “The War on Drugs” was at an all-time high. Wershe watched as his single father sold guns and illegal arms out of his home to put food on the table. 

The family lived in the slums in one of the worst neighborhoods in Detroit. They were surrounded by crack addicts and gangsters. 

But Wershe Sr. saw an opportunity to make money when the FBI came knocking on his door in 1984. They showed him pictures and asked him if he could identify any of the names.

While Wershe Sr. couldn’t help, his son could. He told the FBI that he knew every single person in the photographs. 

The situation involved a Detroit mayor whose niece was engaged to a notorious drug lord, Johnny Curry. With Wershe Jr.’s help, they could get deeper into the root of what was going on and arrest key drug dealers. Wershe Sr. immediately told the FBI they would be willing to help, for they could use the money. 

“I took the money,” Wershe Sr. said. “I wasn’t doing all that well at the time. And I thought it was the right thing – keep some drug dealers off the street and get paid for it.”

The FBI, though, began to use the 14-year-old Wersch Jr. They taught him the ways of the drug trade, showing him how to deal drugs and act like a gangster. 

They even supplied him with cocaine, hoping to use it as evidence against whoever he dealt with. Wershe Jr. would become the youngest FBI informant ever. 

For the next two years, Wershe Jr. helped the FBI land up to 20 convictions. Some of them were the biggest kingpin drug dealers in Detroit. 

Wershe Jr. was put in extremely dangerous situations and even was shot and fought for his life at one point. Agent John Anthony called Wershe Jr. the “most productive informant the FBI had.”

Corruption in the Detroit Police

As time went on, though, Wershe Jr. began to learn too much information. He was directly involved with the Curry family, a notorious drug gang tied to the Detroit mayor. 

Wershe Jr. discovered that the Curry gang shot a 13-year-old boy and that the police knew about it and hid the information. All this was because the mayor was directly involved with the Curry’s and law enforcement was protecting him. 

This was a huge corruption discovery. Wershe Jr. reported his findings to the FBI, which was a significant scandal. 

In an effort to hide the agency’s hiring of a 14-year-old, they cut Wershe Jr. loose, forcing him to live without FBI protection. They then erased his record.

This showed that they never identified him as an informant, only his father. However, this is because Wershe Jr. was filed under his father’s name. 

Wershe Jr. didn’t have protection, and there were some people out to get him for ratting out the police. Nate Boone Craft was a hitman paid to kill Wershe Jr. 

According to Craft, he was hired by a police inspector who found out that Wershe Jr. told the FBI about the corruption inside the police department.

“I was told to kill White Boy Rick,” Craft said. “He (the inspector) said ‘$125,000. I’ll make sure you get it as long as that boy is dead.’”

Wershe Lands in Trouble

Now 17 and not making money through the FBI anymore, he had to find another to earn an income for himself and his family. So he did the only thing he was trained to do–he sold drugs.

Wershe was good at it, too, and his reputation grew with the drug lords. Before long, he was becoming a kingpin and he was still a teenager. He actually dated the mayor’s niece after Johnny Curry was brought to justice as a result of Wershe’s report to the FBI.

Mugshot of Wershe. Michigan Dept. of Corrections

“He rose all the way through the ranks,” gang lord B.J. Chambers said. “He did it just as big as me, the Curry brothers, Maserati Rick — whoever you want to name.”

However, eventually, it all came crashing down. One day, the police came knocking on his door. He was arrested for having 17 pounds of cocaine on him. 

The police, knowing how he had ratted them out, had no sympathy for him, and brought in the press to make a deal out of it. The media gave him the nickname “White Boy Rick,” a name that has stuck with everyone to this day.

Many saw the crime as extreme, especially since he was just 17. But the police exaggerated his crimes to make him look worse than he was. 

Normally, the FBI would step in to cut his sentence short for helping the federal government. But in this case, they turned a blind eye to his conviction.

This is because they had wiped out his record and wanted their hands wiped clean of him. They didn’t want anyone to know they had hired a 14-year-old to deal drugs as a cover-up.

“I was brought into this life by law enforcement,” Wershe said in an interview. “I was taught it, they left me alone, and a year later I’m busted and put in jail for life.”

Life As a Criminal

Wershe Jr. appealed his case, but the FBI remained silent on him. He lost his trial, and the judge harshly called him worse than a “mass murderer.” 

He was treated like it, too. While many of the people he had gotten in trouble were set free, Wershe continued to serve time in prison. 

In 2014, while Wershe was still in prison, a journalist followed up on Wershe’s claims and began interviewing FBI agents. What the journalist found out was that Wershe’s story was true, and soon the story of his past became huge news. 

Wershe in 2017. Detroit News

Hollywood was interested and even made a movie about Wershe and his father, how the FBI made him a drug informant at 14 years old, and how he uncovered one of the biggest corruption cases in Detroit Police history.

In 2017, thirty years after he was convicted, Wershe got parole. When he got out, he was famous, for everybody had learned his story of how he was a 14-year-old FBI informant who was trained to be a drug lord. 

Then in 2020, Michigan repealed the law for drug dealers sentenced to life, freeing Wershe of parole.

Wershe tried to sue the FBI for the injuries he sustained while he was working as an informant. However, due to the statute of limitations law, that lawsuit was dismissed. Wershe has landed in some more trouble with the law, but he is currently out of jail.


Oliver, Mark. “How ‘White Boy Rick’ Uncovered The Largest Corruption Case in Detroit History – And Got Life in Jail.” 12 Jul 2021.

Ruble, Kayla. “Judge Tosses Lawsuits Over Teen Informant Role.” 19 Sep 2023.

Colangelo, B.J. “The Fascinating True Story Behind White Boy Rick.” Slash Film. 29 Jul 2022.

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