Two days after he turned 51, the former teenage drug dealer from Detroit known as “White Boy Rick” is now a free man.
The Florida Department of Corrections released Richard Wershe Jr. on Monday, according to the department. Wershe had been held in a work release facility in Kissimmee and worked at an area law firm before his release this week, officials said.
Wershe, who said he started working as an informant for law enforcement when he was just 14, spent three decades in custody. During that time, his controversial case garnered national attention and inspired movies, including the 2018 feature film starring Matthew McConaughey.
Wershe did not respond to a Free Press letter requesting an interview about his future.
“I know he’s looking forward to freedom,” his longtime attorney Ralph Musilli said Monday morning.
Musilli said he talks to Wershe at least once a week. Musilli declined to divulge Wershe’s specific plans, but said his client has a good support group and will come back to Michigan.
More: ‘White Boy Rick’ to get out of Michigan prison but freedom may take years
More: Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe Jr. awaits parole decision after 4-hour hearing
In 1987, Detroit police arrested 17-year-old Wershe. Officials said he had 8 kilos of cocaine and about $30,000. A jury convicted Wershe of possession with intent to deliver more than 650 grams of cocaine.
His nickname – “White Boy Rick” – was popularized in media coverage in the 1980s though there are disputes about its origins. It’s also the name of the movie with McConaughey and listed as an alias for Wershe in prison records.
Wersche was initially sentenced to life in prison without parole for the drug conviction. Later, the drug law changed and his sentence became life with the possibility of parole.
In 2017, the 10-member Michigan Parole Board unanimously voted to parole Wershe.
“I know that the drugs I sold destroyed people’s lives,” Wershe said during his parole hearing that year. “I can’t take it back.”
But that didn’t free Wershe. He has been in custody in Florida since being paroled for his crime in Michigan. Wershe still had to serve time for his role in a separate stolen-car scheme. A judge sentenced him on racketeering charges in 2006.
That crime happened even while he was confined in the federal witness protection program. Wershe was in the protection program because he had helped the FBI bust corrupt police officers after his drug conviction in Michigan.
He has called his involvement in the stolen-car scheme in Florida a “big mistake.” Wershe said he was trying to help his sister make money buying then selling cars.
Now he is returning to Michigan but under supervised release. Conditions of his parole in Michigan require Wershe to remain in the state and refrain from contact with those with a felony record, said Michigan Department of Corrections spokeswoman Holly Kramer. Wershe must also search for a job and can’t possess a firearm.
“He still has 13 months of parole here in Michigan to serve,” Musilli said. “He’ll be staying pretty close to home.”