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How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Special Report

The “Political Corruption” Behind the Imprisonment of Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr.

This Michigan Department of Corrections record shows his earliest  and latest release dates as never at the bottom right.

. Vince Wade is a former investigative reporter for WXYZ and Fox 2. He now lives in California and runs Informant America, described as ” a blog about the shadowy world of law enforcement informants with particular focus on . . . Richard Wershe, Jr.” This investigative story is republished with permission. It is part of an ongoing series on Wershe.


By Vince Wade

The story of Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe, Jr. is an epic tale, sprawling and complex. It is a challenge to keep the story straight because there are so many players, so many events. It is a challenge to tell you about it.

It is much more than a story about a white teenage dope dealer in the black underworld. It is every bit as much a tale about police criminality, political corruption and what appears to be a decades-long vendetta, a dark and chilling conspiracy within the criminal justice system against a teenager who dared to help the FBI put politically-connected dope dealers and corrupt cops in jail.

It appears to be an organized violation of one man’s civil rights over his entire adult life. There are dozens of important events and hundreds of characters in this story.

Two key episodes were Wershe’s 1988 drug trial and his 2003 parole hearing. This lengthy blog post touches on both. Those bothered by how long it takes to read this should remember Rick Wershe has lived with all of this every day, 24/7, in an 8 X 12 prison cell for the past 27 years.

Featured_screen_shot_2015-09-11_at_10.39.42_pm_18471Ricahrd Wershe Jr. in court Sept. 4

A fierce, fast-moving battle of legal briefs is now being fought in the Michigan Court of Appeals over the re-sentencing of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. who is serving a life prison term for dealing drugs. Hitman murderers, serial rapists and habitual child molesters have been let out of prison by the Michigan Parole Board during the nearly three decades Rick Wershe has been kept behind bars. Others convicted of selling far more dope than Wershe ever saw in his life have been in and out  of Michigan prisons during his time behind bars.

Many Detroit news organizations have been wrong in their reporting dating back to when Wershe was convicted. Last Friday, for instance, two Detroit TV stations reported a Court of Appeals-ordered postponement of Wershe’s re-sentencing was a setback for Wershe. That is wrong. All parties agreed to the delay and Wershe’s defense team breathed a sigh of relief that the fast-moving court battle had slowed to give them time to hone their legal briefs.

The entire basis for demanding that Wershe remain in prison is the claim that his drug crimes were so vast, so deadly, that he poses a menace to society. If that claim can be shown to be false, there is no evidentiary basis, no factual basis for keeping Wershe in prison one more day.

Mike Duggan’s Letter

There are thousands of pages of documents related to Richard J. Wershe Jr., also known as White Boy Rick, in the files of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The most damning by far is a letter from former Wayne County, Michigan prosecutor Mike Duggan to the Michigan Parole Board. Duggan is now the Mayor of the City of Detroit. In that letter Duggan urges the Parole Board to keep Wershe in prison until he dies. The Feb. 17, 2003 letter is dated several weeks ahead of Wershe’s one and only parole hearing since he was sentenced to mandatory life in 1988 for possession of eight kilos of cocaine.

The law was later changed to life with the possibility of parole.

Featured_whiteboyrick_8100Richard Wershe as a teen and now.

The three-page letter purportedly written by Duggan contains serious allegations in stunningly harsh language about the crimes and misdeeds of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. The use of the word “purportedly” will be clear later in this article.

In Michigan politics and in its courts, the name Mike Duggan has marquee value. He made a name for himself as the number two man to Ed McNamara, the late Wayne County Executive. McNamara was an old-school machine politics boss and he taught Duggan how to use the levers of power.

In 2000 Duggan was elected Wayne County prosecutor. Duggan’s reputation as a politician of action got him elected in 2013 as Detroit’s first white mayor since Roman Gribbs in the 1970s.

Then, as now, the Duggan letter to the Parole Board about Wershe carried a lot of weight. When the letter was written, Duggan was the prosecutor of the most populous county in Michigan, the county dominated by the City of Detroit. Today, he’s the Mayor of the City of Detroit, always a powerful office in Michigan politics.

When Rick Wershe’s attorney, Ralph Musilli, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Grand Rapids claiming the Parole Board violated Wershe’s Eight Amendment rights against cruel and unusual punishment, the Michigan Attorney General’s office filed a response brief in behalf of the State Parole Board.

That brief only had a few attachments or exhibits even though there are 11 pounds of documents in the Department of Corrections Wershe file. (I have copies of all 11 pounds.) One of the exhibits from the Wershe file selected by the Michigan Attorney General to persuade the federal court judge that Wershe should remain in prison was the Duggan letter. The state attorney general’s office obviously believes the name Mike Duggan, ex-Prosecutor-now-Mayor of the City of Detroit, has marquee value even in a federal court on the western side of the state.

Public Records Request

To fully understand the saga of Richard J. Wershe, Jr., I decided I needed to learn details of the incendiary, over-the-top allegations in the Duggan/Wershe letter. I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office. I cited the main Duggan letter allegations, paragraph by paragraph, and requested copies of all law enforcement/prosecution documentation supporting the claims and assertions in the Duggan letter.

My request was denied because there is no supporting documentation.

Current Wayne County Prosecutor Worthy is fighting a judge’s decision that Wershe should be re-sentenced, even though her office doesn’t have any documentation to support claims that he shouldn’t be released because he poses a danger to the community.

The judge, Dana M. Hathaway, wants to limit the Wershe re-sentencing issue to the applicable law. She doesn’t want an evidentiary hearing with witness testimony. That’s a pity. The treatment of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is a travesty of justice, a violation of his Constitutional Eighth Amendment right prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. If the Wayne County Prosecutor wants to fight to keep this man in prison for his entire life, she should be forced to produce documentation and witnesses in support of her case. Rick Wershe needs to be re-sentenced, but the truth should be in focus. The truth needs to be put on the record in a court of law to clear the name of a man who has been vilified for years.

The Letter

Let’s get back to the Duggan letter.

I’ll begin with a portion of the letter’s first paragraph, which summarizes Duggan’s opinion of Wershe. The Duggan letter contains occasional use of bold text in the first paragraph as reproduced below.

“For the record, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office continues to be vehemently opposed to any parole of Richard Wershe, Jr. The previous Prosecuting Attorney John D. O’Hair was strongly opposed to any consideration of parole for this inmate, and I continue with my absolute opposition to any such consideration. This is one inmate that needs to remain in prison for his entire life.”

The second paragraph of Duggan’s letter launches in to allegations against Wershe. I’ve broken it down in a three-part format. To follow are the key allegations about Richard J. Wershe, Jr. from the Duggan letter to the Parole Board, followed by my FOIA request to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in italics, followed by the response from the office of current prosecutor Kym Worthy in bold text. The reason for the FOIA denial is repeated after each allegation in the Duggan letter for emphasis and is not a feature of the FOIA denial.

“Wershe had 17.5 pounds or approximately eight kilos of cocaine that was taken to the next door neighbor’s house by David Golley, and placed under their porch.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide any police reports, witness statements, police lab fingerprint reports or any other documentation that is the basis for Prosecutor Duggan’s assertion that Mr. Wershe “had” the cocaine Mr. Golley allegedly placed under a porch.” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. 

“From the records, it appears that Wershe’s gang and the police were contemporaneously looking for the cocaine up and down the street, both trying to find it first.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide copies of “the records” referenced in Mr. Duggan’s letter in which he states “it appears” that Wershe’s “gang” and the police were contemporaneously looking for the cocaine up and down the street…” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. 

(I asked for specifics twice in regard to the previous statement in the Duggan letter.)

In addition, in response to this Freedom of Information Act request please provide any police reports or any other documentation that is the basis for Prosecutor Duggan’s assertion about “Wershe’s gang.” As part of this response please provide documentation regarding the names or any other identifying information regarding Mr. Wershe’s alleged “gang.” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“There was a joint task force assigned to this case, tremendous public taxpayer-funded resources and personnel were expended to stop this ruthless drug dealer.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide any and all documentation which supports Prosecutor Duggan’s claim that a ‘task force’ was assigned to the Richard Wershe, Jr. cocaine case of 1987 which was the basis for his subsequent conviction or any other documentation that is the basis for Mr. Duggan’s assertion that Mr. Wershe was the target of a ‘task force’ investigation.” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. (Bold text added.)

“Several of Wershe’s gang members were found dead.” —Duggan letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide any and all documentation which supports Prosecutor Duggan’s claim that Wershe had a “gang” and that several “were found dead.” Please identify the deceased “gang” members that are the basis for former Prosecutor Duggan’s assertion.” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. (Bold text added.)

“Witnesses in inmate Wershe’s case just disappeared.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide any and all documentation which supports Prosecutor Duggan’s claim that witnesses in the Wershe 1987 cocaine case ‘just disappeared.’” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Inmate Wershe is precisely the kind of drug dealer, gang leader, notorious violent kingpin that the over 650 g of controlled-substances-lifer law was written for, and meant to punish.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide any and all law enforcement/prosecution documentation which supports Prosecutor Duggan’s assertion that Richard Wershe Jr. was a ‘gang leader’ and ‘violent kingpin.’” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Wershe’s violent collateral crimes and the sheer volume of controlled substances that were introduced to the City of Detroit confirm that Wershe is a serious danger to the People of the City of Detroit, and all of Southeastern Michigan, in particular.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide any and all documentation which supports Prosecutor Duggan’s assertion that Richard Wershe Jr. was involved in ‘violent collateral crimes.’ Please cite specific examples of Wershe’s ‘violent collateral crimes.’” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Wershe profited from the countless drug sales that his gang made, and the criminal enterprise that he built.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide documentation that Mr. Wershe was ever charged with a criminal conspiracy and/or operating a criminal enterprise as implied by former Prosecutor Duggan in his letter wherein he refers to Wershe’s ‘gang’ and ‘criminal enterprise.’” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“His family background does not suggest a likelihood of reform. The (Richard Wershe Jr.’s) father was believed to be an electronics technician for the Mafia.” —Duggan 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board regarding parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

“In response to this Freedom of Information Act request, please provide documentation and specifics that are the basis for stating ‘the father was believed’ to be a ‘technician for the Mafia.’” —Vince Wade Freedom of Information Act request.

“After a diligent search for the requested records, we have determined and certify the records do not exist.” —FOIA response of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

What Isn’t There

Featured_worthy2mg_2792_4752Kym Worthy

Well now. Let’s review. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, the one who is fighting desperately to keep Rick Wershe in prison under a life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction, formally admits in a written response to my Michigan Freedom of Information Act request that “the records do not exist” for allegations that:

  • Rick Wershe actually “had” the drugs he was charged with possessing in his 1987 conviction
  • Wershe had a gang present at the time of his arrest
  • Authorities had the names of individuals allegedly involved in a Rick Wershe “gang”
  • There was a “task force” assigned specifically to the Rick Wershe investigation
  • Several Wershe “gang” members were found dead
  • Witnesses against Wershe “just disappeared”
  • Wershe was a “gang leader” and “violent kingpin”
  • Wershe was involved in ‘violent collateral crimes”
  • Wershe had a “gang” and/or a “criminal enterprise”
  • Wershe’s late father was a “technician” for the Mafiahat is the significance of this? Quite simply, it means the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office has said, in writing, they have no evidence, none, to support the urban legend that Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—“White Boy Rick”—was a “kingpin” and a “drug lord.” “We have determined and certify the records do not exist.”

Furthermore, they have no evidence, none according to their Freedom of Information Act response, to factually support their desperate fight to keep Wershe in prison as a danger to the community. “We have determined and certify the records do not exist.”

As reported in last week’s blog post, the animus of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office toward Richard J. Wershe, Jr. extends over the tenure of three prosecutors, beginning with the late John O’Hair who wanted Wershe’s cooperation in prosecuting a corrupt Detroit Police narcotics sergeant.

Wershe had been bribing the sergeant to prevent raids on his stash houses for drugs and cash. One of O’Hair’s assistant prosecutors met with Wershe in prison and told him the prosecutor’s office wanted him to fully cooperate in the case against the sergeant but they offered Wershe nothing in return on his life prison sentence. Wershe told him to buzz off and O’Hair was livid.

Long on Inuendo

In 2003, at Wershe’s one and only parole hearing the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office—Mike Duggan was prosecutor at that time—mounted a frantic effort to keep Wershe in jail. The prosecutor’s presentation to the parole board was long on innuendo and implied criminality but short on factual evidence. The few police investigative files given to the Parole Board do not come close to painting a picture of a major drug trafficker. The usual supporting police paper trail of a major conspiracy and of a coordinating key conspirator wasn’t there. It was a sign of things to come.

It defies belief and common sense to think the prosecutor’s office would matter-of-factly purge the archives of any real evidence they had against this inmate they made out to be a notch or two above Satan. If the Wayne County Prosecutor wanted to keep this guy in prison until he dies, common sense would tell us they would keep their evidence against him indefinitely and not purge it.

After more than a year of investigation I’m prepared to say the prosecution story line that Richard J. Wershe, Jr. “is a serious danger to the People of the City of Detroit, and all of Southeastern Michigan,” as the Duggan letter states, is a lie.

It’s a lie created by some in law enforcement who had it in for, and still have it in for, a teenager who was a recruited, trained and paid FBI informant from the age of 14 and who helped the FBI and U.S. Attorney prosecute important, politically-connected Detroit drug dealers and some of the cops they were paying off. As Wershe’s defense attorney Ralph Musilli puts it: “He cost some people a lot of money.”

Powerful Enemies

Wershe’s work as a confidential informant in Detroit’s drug underworld gained him two politically powerful enemies: Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and police executive and later city council president Gil Hill.

Mayor Coleman A. Young and Gill Hill

Wershe helped the FBI convict Willie Volsan, the mayor’s brother-in-law and while he was an undercover informant he tipped the FBI that the Curry Brothers dope gang had inadvertently killed a 13-year old boy named Damion Lucas in a drive-by shooting.

Wershe also advised the FBI he was riding in Johnny Curry’s car when Curry took a call on his car phone (cell phones weren’t in use in 1985) from Gil Hill. Curry put the phone on speaker mode and Wershe says he heard Hill reassure Curry that he would take care of the murder investigation and Curry shouldn’t worry. In fact, the homicide investigation tried to frame an innocent man named LaKeas Davis. Charges against Davis were eventually dropped. The Damion Lucas murder has never been prosecuted even though the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office knows who killed Damion Lucas.

From the time of the Damion Lucas murder forward, the FBI considered Gil Hill to be a prime target for investigation of obstruction of justice and police corruption amid allegations Curry had paid him $10,000 to draw the investigation of the little boy’s murder away from the Curry gang. Hill has never been charged and he has repeatedly denied the accusations.

Wershe aided the FBI in corruption and drug investigations linked to both Hill and Young. Wershe believes friends and allies of Young and Hill are behind a vendetta to this day to keep him in prison no matter what.

It is a known and provable fact that Rick Wershe continued to help the FBI prosecute drug dealers and police corruption—from prison.

Retired FBI agents who worked with Wershe in the 80s have tried to tell the Michigan Parole Board how helpful Rick Wershe has been in the “war on drugs.” No one on the parole board will listen, even though their own paperwork for his parole hearing states “there are no victims in this case.”

Gregg Schwarz

One of those retired FBI agents is Gregg Schwarz who worked with Wershe as an informant for a time. Schwarz has taken on the role of mentor and emotional lifeline for Wershe. Schwarz has talked with him by phone nearly every week for 27 years. Retired agent Schwarz will tell anyone who will listen, “Rick Wershe never had a gang, he never operated crack houses and he was never charged with a violent crime.” Schwarz is among those who suspect there is a conspiracy to keep Wershe behind bars.

Wershe was never charged by any law enforcement entity with conspiracy, which is a fundamental legal element when prosecuting a drug ring, he was never charged with racketeering and he was never charged with operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, the so-called “kingpin” statute in federal law.

Yet the Michigan Parole Board refuses to grant him parole.

This raises a question: are members of the Michigan Parole Board under the thumb of powerful people in Detroit who want Wershe to die in prison? Are they part of a conspiracy to deny Wershe his constitutional rights? How else to explain why the Board never questioned a series of amazing conflicts in law enforcement testimony at Wershe’s only parole hearing in 2003? There were three FBI agents testifying for his parole, there were two DEA agents testifying against his parole. Yet no one on the Parole Board asked why agents from two federal law enforcement agencies fighting the “war on drugs” were on opposite sides of parole for Richard J. Wershe, Jr.

White Boy Rick is not “innocent.” He’s not a choir boy. It’s true he got involved in the drug trade at the wholesale level, but his life sentence is totally out of sync with similar drug sentences at the federal level and state level in Michigan. After all these years, the only reasonable conclusion is the fight by the Wayne County Prosecutor to keep him in prison is part of a decades-long vendetta against a federal informant who helped bring down corruption in the criminal justice system of Detroit/Wayne County.

Unasked Questions 

The parole hearing included testimony from several high-ranking Detroit cops who had never encountered Rick Wershe in their police work but talked instead in generalities, saying, in effect, crime is bad, murders are bad. Their mere rank, however, had to impress some easily impressed parole board members. One can imagine a gullible Parole Board political hack thinking, ‘Gee! If this police big shot is taking the time to testify against him, Wershe must be a bad dude!’

Significantly, not one narc from the Detroit Police Department testified, yet they were the ones who arrested him in the case that was before the parole board. This was never questioned by the Parole Board or the reporters present.

Wershe’s former defense attorney, the late William E. Bufalino II testified at the parole hearing that he got a personal warning from Detroit Mayor Coleman Young about defending Rick Wershe.

“I was personally told by Coleman Young that this…’stay out of this. This is bigger than you think it is,’” Bufalino testified.

Bufalino’s explosive testimony didn’t stop there. “(But) the mayor’s office was bad, the prosecutor’s office was bad,” Bufalino told the Parole Board panel. These quotes are from an official transcript of the Wershe parole hearing.

The mayor’s office was “bad”? The prosecutor’s office was “bad”? What did he mean by that? This was a veteran Detroit criminal defense attorney making these charges. Corruption allegations swirled around the administration of Coleman Young for years. But what, specifically, was Bufalino talking about? What was the context of the warning from Coleman Young that ‘this is bigger than you think it is’? We will never know.

Bufalino also testified the prosecutor’s office was “bad.” Did he mean there was corruption in the prosecutor’s office? If so, how did it impact Rick Wershe? No one on the Parole Board, none of the reporters, asked him to explain what he meant. We can’t ask him now. Bufalino passed away. No one followed up on a dizzying array of loose ends in that hearing.

Gratitude Toward Wershe

Former Detroit FBI agent Mike Castro, now retired, worked undercover in a sting operation that resulted in a dozen cop convictions. Castro told me he owes his life to Rick because Wershe backed up his cover story at a point in the investigation where the federal agent’s life was on the line. From prison, Wershe reassured wary Detroit dope dealers and their corrupt cop friends that Castro, using the name Mike Diaz, was the real deal, one of Rick’s “connects” from Miami. Wershe convinced the bad guys that the undercover FBI agent could be trusted. Rick Wershe didn’t have to do that, but he did.

It can be argued that Rick Wershe should be given a good citizenship commendation, rather than have to live through one more day of slander against his name, one more day of mendacity in the criminal justice system aided and abetted by lazy and/or incompetent members of the news media who persist in describing him as a former drug lord and kingpin. It’s a lie they routinely reported and continue to report as fact without any evidence.

To this day some news organizations persist in describing Wershe as a drug-dealer-turned-informant. This is totally false and exactly backwards. Rick Wershe was recruited at age 14 and trained in the ways of the dope trade by members of the Detroit federal drug task force. He didn’t get in the dope business until law enforcement put him there. FBI agents weren’t the only ones who used Rick. Wershe says retired Detroit Police narc Billy Jasper, who was assigned to the federal drug task force, “burned up my pager” having him make drug buys in his role as a confidential informant.

Rick’s misadventure in the drug world happened by happenstance. Rick Wershe knew and was trusted by the Curry Brothers drug organization because to them he was just Ricky from the ‘hood.

Trying to Move Up

Around age 16, Wershe tried to become a “weight man” (narcotics wholesaler) after law enforcement suddenly abandoned him when they got what they needed from him in the investigation and prosecution of the Curry Brothers drug gang.

Wershe had dropped out of school to play the role the task force asked him to play and paid him to play. Wershe never became a drug addict but he admits he became addicted to the glitz and bling and cash. He became addicted to the fast cars, fast women and fast life of the drug underworld.

When he got caught and was facing life in prison, no one in the federal drug task force came to his defense. No one. To do so would have required them to publicly admit they had lured a 14-year old kid in to putting himself at grave risk to help them fight the “war on drugs.”

They let this kid they drew in to the drug underworld confront the criminal justice system all alone. Rather than admit what they had done to a juvenile, the Detroit federal drug task force let this young man be sentenced to life in prison. The Wayne County prosecutor is fighting and fighting hard to keep him there even though they admit they don’t have any evidence to support the myth that a 16-17 year-old white kid named Rick Wershe somehow ruled the deadly black drug trade in Detroit in the late 80s.

Guy In the Know

Nate “Boone” Craft, a convicted and paroled hit man from that era knows the true story of the streets in those days. Craft was a member of the Best Friends murder-for-hire crew. He said drug execution murders on the streets of Detroit in the late 80s eventually tapered off for a very simple reason.

Nate “Boone” Craft

“We damned near killed every goddamned body there was to be killed,” Craft once told an interviewer. “Those we didn’t kill ran and left the state. Those that didn’t left the state went to prison.”

Recently Craft told me the White Boy Rick myth is just that. A lie made up by law enforcement.

Craft laughs at the notion that this white kid with a peach-fuzz moustache was giving orders to black adult dope slingers. “He ain’t run us,” Craft said.

“He wasn’t no top dog.” Craft says, however, he and his associates in the drug underworld were impressed by the connections Wershe had made in Florida in his short-lived effort to become a “weight man.” He coulda been a contender. He coulda been somebody. But he got busted.

Can we believe Nate Craft? It seems so. He has support for what he says from a lawyer who knows a lot about Detroit’s drug trade.

Longtime Detroit criminal defense attorney Steve Fishman agrees Rick Wershe was no kingpin or drug lord. Fishman was involved as a defense attorney in most of the major Detroit drug trials of the era. He told me Wershe’s name never came up as a figure in any of those cases in any context.

“They talked about him being ‘the man,’” Fishman told an interviewer a few years ago. “How could he be ‘the man’? I represented guys who were ‘the man.’ You know, I’d heard his name. He was a kid. Yeah, he probably had access to a kilo here, a kilo there. But he was just a kid.”

Police Protest

In her 2003 testimony before the Parole Board Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Karen Woodside noted at the end of Wershe’s drug trial the courtroom was filled on sentencing day with young black men in fancy clothes and lots of flashy jewelry.

“’As (trial) Judge Jackson wondered aloud at the sentencing when he looked at the room full of jewelry bedecked youths, he said one can only wonder if they were here out of concern or to find out when and how they’d fill the void,’” Woodside testified.

It sounds pretty damning until you talk with Nate Craft about that day. Craft says he and a bunch of the dope slingers from the ‘hood were paid by Detroit narcs to show up at court to “demonstrate” against the sentencing of White Boy Rick.

“We was paid to come down to protest about Rick,” Craft told me. “They had us wear bling. They wanted us to pack the courtroom.”

Some of the street guys weren’t paid outright, Craft says. Some were lured to the court with a promise the narcs would go easy on drug raids for a while. It was a theatrical stunt orchestrated by the police to make it look like Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was the pied piper of Detroit’s drug underworld.

Parole Hearing

Wershe was in prison 15 years before he finally had a parole hearing. His parole board hearing is filled with intriguing elements never reported in the media. For example, retired FBI agent Groman says he had to have Wershe’s attorney subpoena him to testify because higher-ups in the Bureau in Detroit didn’t want him to get involved in such a controversial hearing.

The FBI was only too happy to use Wershe as a juvenile informant, but when he needed help, FBI executives turned their backs.

Groman had been Wershe’s primary “handler.” Wershe probably had more official investigative contact with Groman than any other agent. Agent Groman, who had been transferred to the FBI Las Vegas office by then, had to pay his own way back to Detroit to appear as a witness. Knowing his bosses were not pleased, Groman was careful in what he said in his testimony.

With the exception of a few retired FBI agents with a sense of justice, federal law enforcement has remained silent about Rick Wershe to this day. They hide behind “no comment” instead of doing what they ought to do, which is launch a criminal investigation of the ongoing violation of Rick Wershe’s civil rights by Detroit/Wayne County law enforcement and the Michigan Parole Board.

This is public corruption of a different sort. It is a conscious, deliberate and sustained effort within the criminal justice system to destroy a man who helped the federal government prosecute drug dealers and corrupt cops. “Rick Wershe is arguably the most productive informant in the history of the Detroit Office of the FBI,” says retired Detroit FBI agent John Anthony who was the in-house legal adviser during the Wershe era.

In a very real sense, the Detroit/Wayne County criminal justice system vendetta against Rick Wershe is a vendetta against the Justice Department for investigating and prosecuting public corruption. The extraordinary effort to keep Wershe in prison until he dies is a warning to others who would dare to help the FBI nail corrupt cops, prosecutors and politicians who are cozy with dope dealers with deep pockets.

A federal civil rights investigation of the Wayne County Prosecutor, the entire Michigan Parole Board, some past Detroit police officers and several past members of federal law enforcement in Detroit would serve as a warning to police and prosecutors everywhere not to retaliate against federal informants unless they want to risk going to prison themselves.

When it comes to the Michigan Parole Board, which is responsible to no one, the feds might need to open a special office in Lansing to investigate civil rights abuses in the issuance or denials of other paroles.

‘Balls to the Walls’

Current members of the U.S. Justice Department first need to admit to themselves that their agencies are not blameless.

Federal prosecutors used Rick Wershe, just as their investigators had done. One Assistant United States Attorney promised inmate Wershe he would go “balls to the wall” to help him with his state case if Rick would just testify before a federal grand jury about the so-called Best Friends murder-for-hire gang. Rick kept his end of the agreement.

The assistant United States Attorney did not keep his end of the agreement. He broke his promise to Wershe apparently without a second thought. The shame of federal law enforcement in Detroit in the treatment of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. continues to this day.

A thorough federal civil rights investigation would have to include the actions of a couple of DEA agents who testified against Rick Wershe’s release at his 2003 parole hearing.

Why would two DEA agents testify against Wershe after two other DEA agents had visited Wershe in a federal prison in Arizona a decade earlier and pleaded with him to come back to Detroit to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the Best Friends murder-for-hire gang?

Wershe cooperated with the DEA and testified before a federal grand jury. His reward was the testimony of two DEA agents who tried to help bury him for life at his hearing on whether he should be released on parole.

Corrupt Vendetta

If federal investigators explore the corrupt vendetta against one of their recruited informants, they can start by quizzing former Detroit U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins who was the head of the office at the time of Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing. They should ask him how the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office — Duggan was prosecutor then — came to have a copy of Wershe’s sealed grand jury testimony about the Best Friends murder-for-hire organization. That testimony remains under seal to this day. I verified this with U.S. District Court judge Avern Cohn, the federal judge on the Best Friends case.

They might also want to know why Collins sent the Michigan Parole Board a letter overriding and rescinding an earlier letter from one of his assistants, Lynn Helland, recommending parole for Wershe due to his extensive cooperation with law enforcement. They might ask Collins to produce any other letter he wrote to the Michigan Parole Board regarding any other state inmate. The media might ask him the same question.

The Collins intervention in the Wershe parole might make sense if he had been one of their prosecution targets. He wasn’t. The U.S. Justice Department never charged Wershe, who was their informant, with anything. He was never named as a co-conspirator in any federal indictment. He was never named as an unindicted co-conspirator. He was never charged with criminal conspiracy, racketeering or operating a Continuing Criminal Enterprise, the so-called “kingpin” statute in federal law.

In fact, Rick Wershe was never named as a figure in any capacity in any federal case. So why would the U.S. attorney, a former defense attorney for some of Detroit’s powerful dope dealers, oppose state parole for a man who had helped the government put dope dealers and corrupt cops in prison?

Connect the Dots

Federal civil rights investigators might want to connect some dots.

Early in his law career Collins worked for the late Ed Bell, who was Wershe’s defense attorney in his 1987 drug case. Some wonder if Bell didn’t deliberately sabotage Wershe’s defense in order to ensure that Wershe went to jail for life for informing on Bell’s crooked friends in the Detroit political and law enforcement power structure. Bell was an ally of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.

One of Bell’s law partners at the time was Sam Gardner who later became the Chief Assistant Prosecutor—under Mike Duggan. Gardner assisted Bell in Rick Wershe’s 1988 drug case. Gardner was the Number Two man in the prosecutor’s office at the time of Wershe’s 2003 parole hearing.

Among those suspicious of Bell’s handling of the Wershe case is Wershe’s current defense lawyer, Ralph Musilli. He notes Wershe’s initial attorney, the late William E. Bufalino II had filed a motion to suppress the evidence because there were no Rick Wershe fingerprints on the cocaine or the box it was in. And it was found under a porch in Wershe’s neighborhood well after he had been arrested. The appeals argument would be, how could Wershe “possess” something that didn’t have his fingerprints on it?

Musilli argues the shaky prosecution connection of Wershe to the seized drugs would be a strong appeal issue in the event of a conviction. When Wershe pushed Bufalino aside and hired Ed Bell, one of the first things Bell did was withdraw Bufalino’s motion to suppress the evidence. When Wershe was convicted, he had no appeal issue after Bell withdrew the Bufalino suppression motion.

Bufalino put this issue in stark terms in 2003 in his testimony before the Michigan Parole Board:

“It was Bell and Gardner. They guaranteed him that he would walk. They pulled a motion, a dispositive motion on a search and seizure issue regarding this case. They pulled the motion. They hung this boy out to dry.”

Wershe had dropped Bufalino and hired Bell to defend him at the urging of Cathy Volsan Curry, the favorite niece of the late Coleman Young, the longtime powerful mayor of the City of Detroit.

When her husband went to jail after he was convicted in the FBI investigation where Wershe was the confidential informant, Cathy Volsan Curry boldly approached Wershe, who was much younger, and suggested they have a fling. They did.  (See this Informant America blog post: “White Boy Rick: A Child of Coleman Young’s Detroit”) Rick Wershe and Cathy Volsan Curry were having their torrid affair at the time he was arrested.

Cathy Volsan Curry’s father was the late Willie Volsan a longtime racketeer in Detroit’s black community, a major drug dealer and the brother-in-law of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. Willie Volsan was reputed to have excellent connections in the Detroit Police Department and many believed it was due to his related-by-marriage ties to Coleman Young.

Volsan was eventually caught and prosecuted in the FBI sting of corrupt police officers mentioned previously. It was Rick Wershe who enabled the FBI sting operation that sent Willie Volsan to jail.

The FBI tried to catch Gil Hill in their sting, too. Hill had a business relationship with Willie Volsan and Willie introduced Hill to undercover FBI agent Mike Castro who was posing as a Miami cocaine baron who needed police protection moving drugs and cash through Detroit. The street-savvy Hill backed away before the FBI could collect enough evidence to indict him.

Willie Volsan’s brother-in-law, Mayor Young, was still in office when Willie got busted thanks to White Boy Rick. This snitching white kid had slept with his niece and helped the FBI, which Young despised, send his sister’s husband to prison. We can only speculate about what the late Mayor Young may have said about White Boy Rick to his fanatically loyal cronies and pals in the Detroit black political and law enforcement establishment.

Convicted Cop

If the feds launch a civil rights investigation they need to visit Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan and interview an inmate named William Rice.

William Rice

Rice is the former head of the Detroit Police Homicide Section. He was Detroit’s top homicide cop for 20 years. He testified against parole for Rick Wershe at that 2003 hearing. Ironically, Rice is now in prison. He was convicted in a mortgage fraud case and he was charged with selling prescription pills and marijuana. Here’s more irony: Rice is in the same prison as Rick Wershe.

Rick Wershe told me he deliberately confronted the ex-homicide cop one day at a prison lunch table by sitting across from Rice and staring at him.

“Do I know you?” Wershe recalls Rice asking.

“You are one of the reasons I’m still in here,” Wershe replied across the lunch table.

Rice seemed stunned as Wershe told him the story. Rice told Wershe he was pressured by higher-ups in the Police Department to testify against Wershe even though he had no idea who Richard J. Wershe, Jr. was.

Bill Rice’s Turnabout

After that lunch table encounter, Bill Rice decided to try to help Wershe, his fellow inmate.

He prepared a sworn affidavit in which he said that he was ordered to testify against Wershe at his parole hearing even though Rice had never encountered Wershe’s name in any murder investigations. Equally important is Rice’s assertion that he was sent to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to review some documents in preparation for his testimony at the Rick Wershe parole hearing.

“I was called to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office,” Rice swore in his affidavit. “There I met with Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Karen Woodside. She provided me with a volume of paperwork, including portions of Richard Wershe Jr.’s grand jury testimony, which I reviewed in preparation for my testimony.”

Improper disclosure of federal grand jury testimony is a felony. People can go to jail for that. The statute of limitations is long past for things that happened in 2003 but the violation of Rick Wershe’s civil rights continues to this day. If leaking sealed grand jury testimony helped bury Rick Wershe Jr. as part of an orchestrated and continuing vendetta, a conspiracy to deprive someone of their civil rights, well…

Someone is sure to say something like, “Well! Consider the source! Rice is a convict! Why should we believe him?” The funny thing is, convict after convict keeps telling me there is corruption in the system and it has worked against Richard J. Wershe, Jr. The paper trail of evidence I’ve found so far backs up many of the claims of the “bad” guys. When I was a cop beat reporter in Detroit, the late Detroit Police Executive Deputy Chief James Bannon often told me, “Street talk is frequently straight talk.”

Rice has the unique perspective of being Detroit’s top homicide cop and now he’s on the other side, in prison. He knows the system from both sides.

In his sworn affidavit Rice states: “It is my belief that everyone who testified at the 2003 parole hearing at the request of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office had the same availability to the same documents and information as had been given to me.”

There’s more. Rice says he was puzzled about being told to testify against Richard Wershe, Jr.

“I asked why I was being asked to testify at the parole hearing, since I did not know anything about Richard Wershe, Jr.”, Rice said. “I was told it had come through channels (police talk for saying it was orders from a higher ranking officer.)”

Rice didn’t leave it there.

“I spoke with former homicide Inspector, Gilbert Hill, who told me that he believed I was recommended by Jeffrey Collins, who was, at the time, a United States Attorney for the area.”

Why the hell would Jeffrey Collins, the U.S. Attorney, orchestrate testimony against Wershe, a state prisoner, who had been a paid informant for the federal government and who had done a good job helping the U.S. attorney’s office prosecute drug traffickers and corrupt police officers?

And why would Gil Hill know something like that unless he was in on the planning, too?

Remember what was said about Collins earlier. Collins learned the criminal defense business working for Ed Bell. Milton “Butch” Jones, the notorious leader of Young Boys, Incorporated, an infamous drug gang in Detroit, wrote a self-adoring, self-published autobiography called, “Y.B.I.-The Autobiography of Butch Jones.” Jones ends the book with this line: “Hell, somebody had to take over this city. Why not me?” At the end of the book, in the acknowledgements, he gives a shout-out to Jeffrey Collins.

Bell’s law partner was the late Sam Gardner who later became the Chief Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor under Mike Duggan. Gardner held that position at the time of the Wershe parole hearing. Did I mention Gardner had “assisted” Bell in defending Wershe in 1987-88? Now, he was the Chief Assistant Prosecutor as the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office tried desperately to keep Wershe in prison. And they were desperate.

Retired FBI agent John Anthony, mentioned previously, was the legal advisor to the Detroit office at the time of the Wershe parole hearing. Anthony remembers getting a “frantic” phone call a day or two before the parole hearing from Detroit Police Commander Dennis Richardson, now retired.

Anthony told me Richardson pleaded to get his hands on material that could be used against Wershe at the parole hearing. Anthony wasn’t about to turn over FBI investigative files. He gave Richardson the FBI’s newspaper clipping file about White Boy Rick Wershe. Those newspaper clippings were submitted at the parole hearing by assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Karen Woodside as part of the “evidence” against Richard J. Wershe, Jr. They threw anything they could find at the parole hearing wall, hoping it would stick.

Maybe there are many, many dots to be connected in the tangled web of the vendetta to keep Rick Wershe in prison “for his entire life” to quote again from the Mike Duggan letter to the Michigan Parole Board. There are many people who will be ready with denials when asked about their role in this scandal of one man’s lifetime.

The current Detroit U.S. Attorney, Barbara McQuade and Paul Abbate, the outgoing Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit FBI had nothing to do with the federal government’s shabby treatment of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. in the past.

But they are in charge now and McQuade and Abbate’s incoming replacement, Special Agent David Gelios, can take action now—or they can turn their back on the continuing civil rights injustice and disgraceful retaliation against one of their own informants. It looks to be an ongoing conspiracy to violate a man’s constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment that appears to be rooted in yet more public corruption.

In part, this is the word of jail birds and ex-cons against people who are sworn to uphold the law. Yet, an investigation built largely on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act suggests it is the convicts who are telling the truth. After over a year of investigative reporting I can say with confidence the legend of White Boy Rick, the “drug lord” and “kingpin” is built mostly on lies.

This is the real White Boy Rick story. It is a tale of shameful law enforcement exploitation of a kid. It is not about a kid drug baron. The kid was taught the drug trade by law enforcement. It is about depriving a man of his life because he helped the federal government prosecute people with political connections in a corrupt big city. It is a story the news media has consistently failed to grasp. So-called reporters and editors keep focusing on the victim—Rick—instead of the pile of lies concocted by some in the criminal justice community who are angry that Wershe told the FBI about the drug crimes and payoffs of some very powerful people.

The Dilemma in 2015

Today Prosecutor Worthy has a dilemma.

If documentation and records suddenly appear on any of the issues in the Duggan letter, her office will have lied in an official response to a proper request made under a Michigan law—the Freedom of Information Act.

If, as the prosecutor’s response to my FOIA request indicates, “no records exist” for the accusations that are the basis for the White Boy Rick legend, then there is no basis for claiming Richard J. Wershe, Jr. poses a danger to the community if he is released.

Informant America has already established through a Freedom of Information Act inquiry reported in a previous blog post that Wershe has no disciplinary record in the Michigan Department of Corrections. An official at Oaks Correctional Facility, where Wershe is housed, says Wershe could be described as a model prisoner with no “tickets” for misbehavior.

What’s more, Kym Worthy’s response to my request for the evidence behind Duggan’s letter to the Michigan Parole Board makes the Mayor of the City of Detroit look like a lying fool. Unless he didn’t write the letter. This is where the plot thickens.

A spokesman for Mayor Duggan says the mayor simply doesn’t remember the letter to the parole board about Rick Wershe. Maybe that’s because he never wrote it.

Let’s compare the Duggan signature on the 2003 letter to the Michigan Parole Board with the Duggan signature on a recent letter to Governor Rick Snyder.

Were the signatures written by the same person? You decide.

Did someone in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, someone with access to department stationery, forge Duggan’s signature to a letter he never wrote?

Is this letter the Michigan Attorney General has used as a court exhibit to persuade a federal judge that Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is an evil man and menace to society a falsified document?

If Mike Duggan didn’t sign the fiery condemnation letter to the Michigan Parole Board urging them to keep Rick Wershe in prison until he dies, who did?

More on that next week.

Gang Land News: Feds Cheer Mama’s Boy Mob Snitch, And He Earns A Sweet Reward

Jerry Capeci is considered a mob expert. He’s the founder and editor of the paid subscription website Gang Land News. This article was republished with permission.

By Jerry Capeci

Anthony Zoccolillo’s role as a co-star of the short-lived Mama’s Boys of the Bronx reality TV show was pretty much a flop.

But there was applause all around for the former Genovese crime family associate-turned super snitch at his sentencing last month. Surrounded by dozens of FBI agents, NYPD detectives and very happy family members, a smiling but moisteyed Zoccolillo walked out of Manhattan Federal Court and breathed free fresh air for the first time in 18 months.

His best review came from Judge Richard Sullivan who praised him for “truly extraordinary” undercover work following his arrest on drug dealing charges and sentenced Zoccolillo to “time served.”

In January, Gang Land dubbed Zoccolillo The Most Effective Mob Turncoat Of 2014. Federal prosecutor Rebecca Mermelstein said he was he even better than that. She credited him with giving her the crucial evidence to obtain six indictments against 14 mobsters and drug dealers, and dubbed Zoccolillo the best cooperating witness she had seen in her five years as an assistant U.S. Attorney.

“This is, without a doubt, the cooperator who has offered the most substantial assistance,” Mermelstein said of Zoccolillo. She submitted a list of 27 gangsters, including 13 members of a violent Bronx-based Albanian gang who pleaded guilty to drug, weapons and other charges rather than face the former Mama’s Boy on the witness stand.

“He did it from the very beginning” when he “worked proactively to make hundreds of in-person telephone recordings,” she said. “Unlike many people, he never withheld anything. He never got caught minimizing anything. He came forward immediately and did  the right thing.”

The sentencing documents, and a transcript of the proceeding, which took place May 1, were sealed until this week. Judge Sullivan ordered them unsealed following a Gang Land pro se motion that cited the public’s common law and First Amendment right to open court proceedings. Zoccolillo, as Gang Land first disclosed two years ago, flipped on the same day he was arrested — February 20, 2013.

He quickly snared Genovese mobster Salvatore (Sally KO) Larca and three others on tape as they conspired to buy thousands of pounds of marijuana in northern California and distribute it in New York. Larca was buying the high-grade weed for $1500 a pound and selling it for $4000 a pound.

Read more »

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch Named Fed of the Year for 2014

By Allan Lengel

Loretta E. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, has been named Fed of the Year for 2014.

Lynch, who was appointed to the post by President Obama in 2010, is known as a solid leader with strong management skills. She has shown a steady hand in leading the office, which has indicted a number of high-impact cases without worrying about generating media publicity.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Lynch’s skill set and professionalism made her a natural pick for President Obama, who has nominated her to replace Eric Holder Jr. as Attorney General.  She’s gotten the endorsements of law enforcement including the the FBI Agents Association, which said in a statement in November:

“The FBIAA appreciates the importance of Attorney General leadership, and we look forward to working with Ms. Lynch, who has been a strong supporter of FBI Agents from her days as a trial attorney to her time as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York”

This is Lynch’s second tour of duty as head of the office in Brooklyn. She headed the office from 1999 to 2001 under President Clinton.

Her office is known for its steady flow of indictments ranging from mob cases to public corruption to stock fraud.

She is the second U.S. Attorney to receive the award since it was first given in 2008. The first year, the award went to then-Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

Besides Fitzgerald, previous recipients have included:  Warren Bamford, who headed the Boston FBI (2009), Joseph Evans, regional director for the DEA’s North and Central Americas Region in Mexico City (2010) and Thomas Brandon, deputy Director of ATF (2011) and David Bowdich, special agent in charge of counterrorism in Los Angeles. Bowdich was just named assistant director in charge of the LA office.


Horn of Plenty: Middle East Heroin and Meth Is Bound for the U.S. Through East Africa

By Jeffrey Anderson

An indictment in U.S. District Court in Manhattan of a major international drug trafficking enterprise in the Middle East and Africa is shining a light on law enforcement operations and the diplomatic challenges the United States faces in such foreign cases.

The complications of investigating international conspiracies and dealing with foreign treaties and corruption in foreign lands are among the obstacles U.S. law enforcers face in a case out of Kenya that illustrates the continued rise of East Africa as a global drug hub.

The indictment charges a suspected organized crime family in Kenya and associates from India and Pakistan with running a large-scale operation to transport heroin and meth from the Middle East, through East Africa, and to U.S. ports by sea.

Ibrahim Akasha and Baktash Akasha, Kenyan nationals and sons of the elder Ibrahim Akasha, who was murdered in Netherlands in 2000, face conspiracy and drug trafficking charges. They were arrested last week in Mombasa.

The Akasha organization is managed by Vijay Anandgiri Goswami, known in India as “Vicky” Goswami, the indictment states. A Pakistani man named Gulam Hussein, “Old Man,” is identified as the narcotics supplier for the alleged transportation network. They too were arrested in Mombasa.

Hussein has acknowledged transporting tons of heroin by sea, which he procured from one of the largest suppliers of white heroin in the world, the indictment states. He and the Akashas allegedly planned to import the drugs into the U.S.

People Daily, Daily Nation and others reported the arrests of Hussein, Gowami and the Akashas last week as the indictment was being unsealed in New York. The indictment states that Baktash Akasha met two confidential DEA sources posing as representatives of a Colombian drug trafficking organization in Mombasa, in March, and discussed a plan to import hundreds of kilograms of pure heroin, known as “100 percent white crystal,” into the United States. Akasha offered a discount to one of the DEA sources if he paid for the heroin up front, the indictment states.

He also told the source about a European communications company that provides secure cell phones to evade American or Israeli intelligence, according to the indictment.

During an April meeting in Mombasa that included his brother Ibrahim and Goswami, Akasha told the same DEA source that he had contacted a heroin supplier in Pakistan about buying 500 kilograms of “carat diamond,” referring to high-quality heroin, for importation into the U.S., the indictment states. Akasha told the DEA source that the supplier, who is not named in the indictment, could provide 420 kilograms.

In a recorded telephone conversation in June, Akasha talked to the DEA source about sending a sample of the heroin to East Africa. Later that month, Goswami talked with the DEA source about establishing meth labs in West Africa, offering that he could procure “ton-quantities” of the chemicals to produce meth in East Africa, the indictment states.

Read more »

Detroit’s Top FBI Agent Paul Abbate Talks About ISIS, Gangs, Corporate Espionage and Violence


Paul Abbate

By Allan Lengel

DETROIT — Paul M. Abbate arrived in Detroit last fall to take over the local FBI office, days after Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick got a hefty 28-year prison sentence. Kilpatrick was whisked away in handcuffs.

But the scent of corruption lingered, and Abbate suddenly found himself heading up an FBI office, where public corruption investigations continue to be a high priority.  In the past few years alone, besides the mess at city hall, several people in the Wayne County government have been convicted of corruption charges. That investigation remains open

Before arriving here, Abbate headed up the counterterrorism division in the FBI’s Washington Field Office, which handles terrorism investigations domestically and overseas.

Before that, he spent time at FBI headquarters, Newark,  New York, Los Angeles, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was involved in such FBI investigations as Benghazi and Pan Am 103.

October marked his first anniversary in Detroit.

A native of the New Haven,  Conn. area, the very affable Abbate, an 18-year veteran of the FBI,  recently sat down with Allan Lengel of to talk about ISIS, traditional organized crime, the agency’s relationship with the Arab-American community, local gangs and use of social media, corporate espionage, violence and how he ended up in Detroit.

“I actually asked to come here,” he says, adding that he’s been impressed with the people of Michigan.

The following is an interview with Abbate, which has been trimmed for brevity. The questions have been edited for clarity.

DD: Is there any sense that ISIS  or ISIL has any presence or connection here?

Abbate: It’s something that we’re constantly vigilant about, proactive in terms of trying to be in front.  I wouldn’t say that we have any specific or credible information that there’s an ISIL presence here in Michigan at this time. But it’s something, 24/7, we’re always on guard for.

DD: The Internet has become a big tool for recruiting. Do you see any of that activity here?

Abbate: That’s everywhere.

DD: Is that monitored out of headquarters?

Abbate: We work in conjunction with the Counterterroism Division in headquarters. And that type of investigative work is carried out throughout the 56 field offices including here as well. When you talk about focusing on a specific area, the Internet and the reach of the Internet has really broken that down. Any person sitting anywhere in the world can reach out and attempt to recruit, radicalize and incite anyone else in the world whether it’s here in Michigan or anywhere in the United States.

DD: Do you have any sense of al Qaeda having some presence here?

Abbate: Like the earlier questions you ask, I would say that we don’t have any specific or credible information with regard to any particular group like that, but that’s what we do. That’s what we’re on the watch for. It’s our top priority to identify if it’s here and prevent an attack from occurring.

DD: Do you see anything in Michigan, an exchange of people coming and going from Syria, that might concern you?

Abbate: We’re always on the look out for that. We had a case here , we had an individual who was arrested  this past March who was seeking, as alleged in the complaint, to go over to Syria to join up with a terrorist organization. We’ve had a number of cases nationally where we’ve had people travel there.

DD: How would you describe your relationship with the Arab American community here?

Abbate: I think it’s strong. Again the community outreach that we do is broad based, so I don’t like to single out any one particular community. With respect to the Arab American community, we  have a very robust outreach, with various aspects of that community and individuals. It’s strong. We go to various events that are held within the community. We hold regular meetings here to share ideas, to hear from the various communities.

DD: In some parts of the country there have been concerns over the years that the FBI has been too aggressive in monitoring activities in mosques. Is there a concern here that you’ve heard?

Abbate: I think a lot of those earlier concerns that have been around for a long time, now to a great extent, have been overcome.  Certainly that sort of distrust or concern still exists to some level, and we do continue to hear that. But I think we’ve made great strides.

Read more »

A Book Review About Baseball, A-Rod and the Steroid Era

Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End baseball’s Steroid Era , By Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts

Greg Stejskal served as an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office.

By Greg Stejskal

This is not a traditional book review as those are usually done about the time a book is published and first available for sale. Also in the interest of full disclosure, another retired FBI agent and I are mentioned in the book albeit briefly and tangential to the primary focus of the book. The mention is related to a FBI steroid investigation we did in the early ‘90s. I’ll explain more about that later.

One of the authors of Blood Sport, Tim Elfrink, is a reporter for the “Miami New Times”, and he broke the story of the Biogenesis/Major League Baseball performance enhancing drugs scandal. Tony Bosch, Biogenesis’ founder and owner, had become a supplier of PEDs to a number professional and college baseball players. Several the MLB players were some of biggest stars in the game, and one Alex Rodriguez, “A-Rod,” the highest paid player in the history of the game.

Blood Sport is not only a great telling of the sordid story of Bosch peddling steroids and other PEDs to baseball players, but it’s an insider’s perspective of investigative journalism. The Biogenesis saga is arguably the biggest scandal in MLB since the “Black Sox” conspiracy that fixed the 1919 World Series.

In setting the stage for the Biogenesis story, Blood Sport describes some of the very early efforts to gain an advantage by the use of chemical enhancement. One such episode occurred in 1889 and involved a 32-year-old pitcher for the (Pittsburg) Alleghenies.

The pitcher, James “Pud” Galvin, had been one of the best pitchers of the era, but at 32 was past his prime. He was asked to participate in an experiment involving the use of an anti-aging elixir which was administered by injection and was nothing more than a liquid derived from the crushed testicles of animals. (Pud’s elixir came from sheep testicles, Rocky Mountain Oysters.)

The experiment was publically known and not illegal. (The sale and use of drugs was not regulated by the US government until the early 1900s.) Pud pitched a great game, and for short time his performance was proclaimed as proof the elixir worked. It was later determined that the elixar’s relatively small amount of testosterone could not have enhanced Pud’s pitching. He probably benefited from the psychological benefit of the placebo effect. But in thinking that the male hormone, testosterone, might have performance enhancing potential, they were on to something.

Blood Sport goes on to trace some of the other efforts to gain advantage in sports through chemistry like the open and pervasive use of amphetamines starting in the 50s and going into the 80s and to some extent the present.

Contemporaneous with the decline of amphetamine use began the use of PEDs that could dramatically improve a player’s performance and potentially destroy the integrity of sports – anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are synthetic testosterone which in large amounts increases muscle size and strength. Not all steroids have this anabolic effect, but the steroids that are considered PEDs and illegal are anabolic. Testosterone is produced in males’ testicles, but much larger amounts than occur naturally are needed to enhance athletic performance.

The use of steroids as PEDs came later to baseball than to some other sports, notably football, but when they did come, it was with a vengeance.

This is where the “full-disclosure” thing I mentioned earlier comes in. It was gratifying that Blood Sport tells the story of the advent of the first major federal investigation of steroids, a FBI undercover operation dubbed Equine, and how it relates to MLB’s “steroid era.”

Equine started with a meeting of the legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler, his strength and conditioning coach, Mike Gittleson, and me. Bo’s reason for meeting with me was his concern that steroids were becoming prevalent in high school and college football. Steroids were illegal under federal law except by prescription for rare circumstances that did not include enhanced performance in sports. So inspired by Bo, I decided to initiate an undercover operation, Equine, that targeted the illegal distribution of steroids. That UCO ultimately resulted in the successful prosecution of over 70 dealers in the US, Canada and Mexico and the seizure of millions of dosage units of steroids and human growth hormone (HGH).

Greg Stejskal


Although we identified a number of football and baseball players that were steroid users – high profile users, but just users – we only prosecuted dealers. One of those dealers, Curtis Wenzlaff, not only sold steroids to our undercover agent, Bill Randall, he had been a supplier to Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire (“The Bash Brothers”) when they played for the Oakland Athletics. After his arrest Wenzlaff agreed to cooperate, and we went after his suppliers, up the ladder so to speak.

All this is only relevant to the current MLB steroid story because in 1994 we warned MLB that steroids were being used by their players, and it was a growing (literally and figuratively) problem based on information provided by Wenzlaff and others. The warning was ignored. Neither the hierarchy of MLB nor the players were ready to confront the problem of steroids yet.

Years later when the extent of the PED problem became clear, and that it was threatening the integrity of the game, the commissioner’s office, owners and players knew that the cancer of PEDs had to be extricated from the game. With the support of the players association, testing was instituted (urine testing for steroids and some other PEDs and blood testing for HGH). The commissioner’s office also tasked former Senator George Mitchell to conduct an investigation of the PED problem and how best to eliminate them.

Among the things the resultant “Mitchell Report” recommended was a “department of investigation” be established within the commissioner’s office to go beyond just testing for PEDs. (A concept that Bill Randall, the Equine undercover agent and I recommended when we were interviewed by Mitchell’s investigators.) So when the Biogenesis story broke in the “Miami New Times” and then everywhere, MLB was ready to respond with an investigative unit that reported to the commissioner.

The whole saga of the “Miami New Times” getting the Biogenesis story from a disgruntled former partner of  Tony Bosch; Alex Rodriguez and his entourage’s efforts to cover it up and keep evidence from the MLB investigators and  Bosch caught in the middle, makes for an entertaining story even if you’re not a baseball fan. Set mostly in Miami with a cast of characters that would seem to have come from an Elmore Leonard novel, it is vividly told in Blood Sport.

For me the takeaway message from the book is that although testing for PEDs is a valuable tool in helping to deter/reduce the use of PEDs in sports, it is ineffective by itself. Of the 14 players suspended for PED use in the Biogenesis case, only 2 had tested positive in connection with PEDs supplied by Tony Bosch. One was Ryan Braun, and he beat the test by contesting the chain of custody of his urine sample and disparaging the integrity of the tester. The MLB investigation determined that Braun’s test had been accurate and the tester hadn’t “juiced” his urine sample as Braun had implied.

The suspensions were all based on the investigation done by MLB’s investigators. That investigation was initiated because of the story in the “Miami New Times.”

All of the suspensions other than Rodriguez’ were accepted by the players. Rodriguez challenged the suspension and went to arbitration claiming the MLB investigators had acted illegally and unethically in obtaining evidence.

The arbiter did not find that any of the investigators’ conduct affected the creditability of the investigation’s conclusions. He also found that Rodriguez had made a concerted effort to hide evidence and obstruct the investigation.  His suspension was upheld by the arbiter, but reduced. Even with the reduction it was the longest suspension for doping ever given in baseball.

The other professional sports leagues and the NCAA should take notice. (Some of Bosch’s PED customers played baseball for the University of Miami.) If the use of steroids and HGH was widespread in MLB, I suspect it is at least as prevalent in the NFL and perhaps other leagues. They cannot rely on testing alone. (As I write this, the NFL Players Union has agreed to a new drug testing regime which will include blood tests for HGH.)

After Blood Sport was published, it was announced that Tony Bosch was federally indicted along with others who were involved with supplying PEDs to the players. Bosch has agreed to plead guilty and will get credit for his cooperation with MLB’s investigation. That is what we had hoped would happen at the end of Equine in 1994. We would prosecute the dealers, and MLB would investigate and discipline the players/users based on intelligence provided by us and our cooperating dealers. It took 20 years – we were just a little ahead of the curve.



A New FBI Show Is Coming to Prime-Time TV This Season on CBS

By Alan Stamm

Josh Dunhamel is no Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and his new TV show is unlike “The F.B.I.”

The 2014 version is “Battle Creek,” a drama-comedy set in that Michigan city and picked up by CBS for at least 13 episodes. No date is announced for its “coming soon” mid-season debut.

Dunhamel plays Special Agent Milt Chamberlain, sent to open a field office in the economically depressed Midwestern city of 52,000.

“It’s a throwback old-school cop show,” Dunhamel tells Lauren Moraski of CBS News. “I play an FBI agent who’s setting up a satellite office in Battle Creek.

“We work together with some of the local detectives in this underfunded run-down department. So my character has all the resources in the world and this poor police department has almost nothing. So it’s a contrast between local law enforcement and the FBI. It’s funny, but it’s also a serious procedural at the same time.”

His main co-star is Dean Winters as local Det. Russ Agnew. They spar as a mismatched pair, much as Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy do in “The Heat,” a 2013 comedy film. And as Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy do in “48Hrs.” (1982) and its 1990 sequel. Similarly, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell played “Tango & Cash” on the big screen in 1969. Hey, no one pitches this as a breakthrough concept.

Here’s how CBS promotes the new series, shot in Los Angeles:

“As Russ and Milt work long hours together, the question is: Will it be Milt’s charm and endless supply of high-end resources or Russ’ old-fashioned cynicism, guilt and deception that prove to be the keys to catching the bad guys in his beloved hometown?

The executive producer is Vince Gilligan, who produced “Breaking Bad,” which goes a long way toward explaining why USAToday this summer called it “one of next season’s most-anticipated new series.”

Gilligan says he’s “never actually been to Battle Creek,” but likes the name and will portray it as “a city of underdogs.”


Here’s a partial list of some of other FBI shows

  • “The F.B.I.,” 1965-74:  Insp. Lewis Erskine (Zimbalist) and several agents handled cases based on real FBI files. Erskine reported to Arthur Ward (Phillip Abbott), assistant to the director. The technical adviser was W. Mark Felt, an associate director of the bureau later unmasked as Watergate informant “Deep Throat.” It ran for 241 episodes.
  • “Mancuso, F.B.I.” 1989-90:  Robert Loggia starred on NBC as Nick Mancuso, a bureau veteran assigned to headquarters, where superiors saw him as a maverick with little regard for agency rules and procedures. Low ratings limited it to one season and prime-time summer reruns in 1993.
  • “The FBI Files,” 1998-2006: This 120-episode documentary series ran on the Discovery Channel cable network, using reenactments and interviews with agents and forensic scientists to dramatize real cases.

FBI’s Tainted Key Witness Creates Big Problems in Mobster Case for NY U.S. Attorney’s Office

This piece originally appeared in Gang Land News on June 26 and is being reprinted with permission. It’s the most recent story Gang Land News has published about the case since disclosing that prosecutors gave sweet plea deals to two Gambino family gangsters on the eve of trial in January rather than allow their lawyers to question the FBI’s key witness about the reason he agreed to cooperate.The witness was arrested on charges of soliciting sex from a person he believed was a 15-year-old girl, a charge that normally carries a mandatory-minimum penalty of 10 years to life.

U.S. Atty. Preet Bharara/doj photo

By Jerry Capeci
Gang Land News

The office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara quietly announced last month that it was dismissing charges against the last three defendants in the snake-bitten labor racketeering case that the FBI made against Genovese gangster Carmine (Papa) Smurf Franco and 28 others. All told, prosecutors have dropped the charges against 10 of the 29 defendants in the indictment.

Throwing in the towel before trial against more than a third of the defendants in the 16-count indictment wasn’t the way things were supposed to turn out. When the arrests were announced, the case was hailed by Bharara and New York FBI boss George Venizelos as a major blow against the Mafia’s control over the waste hauling industry in New York and New Jersey. Instead, this foray against the mob rivals the losing ways of the luckless Mets.

In a two paragraph court filing, prosecutors told Manhattan Federal Judge P. Kevin Castel they were deferring the prosecution of the owner of a Jersey City garbage company and two truck drivers charged with stealing about 130 tons of cardboard between March and July of 2012. The trio, Thomas Giordano, 43, the owner of Galaxy Carting of New Jersey, Michael Russo, 51, and Louis Dontis, 59, were set for trial next month. The charges are slated to be officially dismissed later this summer.

The three men were tape recorded by FBI informer Charles Hughes in dozens of conversations in which they allegedly discussed truckloads of stolen cardboard, and a surprisingly simple, relatively lucrative mob scam. Drivers snatched the cardboard from sites in Brooklyn, Bayonne and beyond. It was then put up for sale by Giordano at a market price that ranged between $106 and $125 a ton, according to an FBI summary of talks that Hughes recorded from March of 2009 until January 8, 2013 – a week before the indictment was unsealed.

But in an apparent effort to keep their key witness, undercover operative Hughes, off the stand, prosecutors have decided to drop the charges. A major concern is that Hughes would have to admit that he became a government witness only after he was arrested for soliciting sex with a girl he believed was 15 years old.

In January, prosecutors gave super sweet plea deals to Gambino mobster Anthony Bazzini and mob associate Scott Fappiano, who faced 20 years if convicted, rather than subject Hughes to a biting cross-examination about that by their lawyers.

But prosecutors had no leverage to wangle guilty pleas from the alleged cardboard thieves.  “They rejected plea deals of zero-to-six months early on,” said one source.

“There was no way they were going to plead to anything,” said one defense attorney whose client accepted a plea offer before it became known that Hughes was a convicted sex pervert. “My guy got a really nice disposition, but he’s not happy. And there’s one other guy I know who’s upset that he didn’t hold out until the end,” the lawyer added.

Sources say that following his arrest in August, 2008, Hughes, now 44, was detained until March of 2009, when he was released on bail and wired up by the FBI to see if he could deliver on a claim that he had worked in the waste hauling industry in his teens and could make cases for the feds. News that his cooperation stemmed from a sex-solicitation arrest surfaced five months ago.

Law enforcement sources say the primary reason the government decided to give Fappiano and Bazzini — who received a year and a day sentence on June 24 — much better plea offers was a “real fear” that jurors would be so outraged by Hughes’s conduct that they would hold it against the government for making a deal with him, ignore the law and acquit, no matter what.

Whether the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office should have entered a cooperation agreement with Hughes in the first place is a bone of contention for some law enforcers. But that issue is difficult to assess since his case is still under seal as are the specifics of his deal with the feds.

But there is agreement by several law enforcement officials, and virtually every defense lawyer Gang Land spoke to, that the decision by Judge Castel to permit defense lawyers to question Hughes about lies he told both his wife and the “teenager” he thought he was seducing convinced prosecutors to give deals to Bazzini and Fappiano in January.

Prosecutors Bruce Baird and Patrick Egan had tried to limit the cross examination, but when Castel indicated during a pretrial session that he was going to grant defense lawyers Raymond Perini and Lee Ginsberg some leeway in their questioning of Hughes, the prosecutors gave the gangsters a plea offer they couldn’t refuse.

“The mobsters were charged with extortion but it’s really stealing garbage stops and bid-rigging,” said one source. “That’s pretty tame stuff for jurors to deal with compared to having sex with little girls who but for the grace of God could be their daughters or granddaughters. The chance of jury nullification was very real.”

The decision to toss the charges against the alleged cardboard thieves was presumably even easier to make: The total value of the stolen cardboard was about $16,000, an amount not likely to sway jurors versus a sex-scheming witness.

Nor was playing the dozens of tapes Hughes made without having him testify to authenticate them a good option. Some conversations appear to back up the notion that the men knew they were dealing in stolen cardboard. For instance, according to the indictment, on May 29, 2012, Giordano was recorded saying “he did not care where the cardboard came from as long as it went to him.”

But others, like one a few days earlier, according to an FBI summary obtained by Gang Land, appear to tilt the other way. In one such conversation, Dontis is heard telling Hughes that “he doesn’t want to do anything wrong. He’s not a brokester, he’s just a hard working Greek who just wants to make money.”

Even if convicted, the trio could have received non jail terms, or sentences of less than a year behind bars.

Giordano’s attorney, Michael Bachner, the only lawyer who responded to a Gang Land request for comment, said he and his client were pleased by the deferred prosecution decision. “From the get go,” said Bachner, “we have taken the position that Mr. Giordano should not be prosecuted. And while it took longer than we would have wished, we’re gratified with the result.”

Neither Bharara, nor the FBI, would comment about this week’s deferred prosecution, or the embarrassing decision to drop the charges against a third of the defendants in the case. They also declined to discuss the status of Hughes, including whether he is behind bars, or if, as prosecutors indicated last week, he is free on bail, and what type of supervision he has now.

In court papers, prosecutors wrote that Hughes “remains in virtual hiding, fearful for his safety and the safety of his close family members.” His “ability to earn a living and to support his family is essentially non-existent,” they wrote, adding that his “life will never return to the way it was prior to his arrest.”

Prosecutors also wrote that different accounts they gave defense lawyers about how roll-off containers belonging to a Bazzini-connected carting company ended up in a Giordano company storage lot were caused by “miscommunication or misunderstanding” between Hughes and his supervising FBI agents, “rather than a deliberate effort by (Hughes) to mislead the government.”

Gang Land News, which is run by Jerry Capeci, a noted mobster expert, is a subscription site, but well worth it.