The years between the late 1970s and the final decade of the 20th century on the streets of Detroit represent one of the most violent eras of crime in American history. The death toll in those years has been placed at well over 1,000 drug-related homicides. Besides the violence of that era, it was a time known for its decadence. The men who made their names in this period lived their lives lavishly with media-friendly charisma and panache. This was the era of Young Boys, Inc., better known as YBI, representing a new wave in the Detroit drug scene. Kingpins with memorable names entered that scene, including Milton “Butch” Jones, Raymond “Baby Ray” Peoples, Dwayne “Wonderful Wayne” Davis and Mark “Block” Marshall.
Lurking in the shadows of YBI was the Curry Brothers Gang led by brothers Johnny and Leonard Curry. The most remarkable figure from the Curry gang was Johnny’s protégé, Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe, a teenage street prodigy with a fierce reputation that he had earned by the time he was 15. He wasn’t even old enough to drive, but his boldness and his risky deeds contributed to his fast-growing status. By the time he was arrested in 1988, “White Boy Rick” was having an affair with the niece of Detroit’s mayor.
Rick Wershe’s introduction to the Detroit drug world came as a paid FBI informant who was recruited at age 14 when he was just out of eighth grade. He was told to infiltrate some of the Motor City’s most powerful and dangerous gangs. When his handlers told Rick that his services were no longer needed, he used the connections he had made to sell drugs himself. In an era of memorable underworld figures, “White Boy Rick” may well be the most fascinating of them all.