St Paul couple charged in carjacking crime spree

It didn’t take long into 2022 to see that serious crime in the Twin Cities isn’t relenting. In early January, Kashwan Wertman, 18, and Nautica Argue, 19, terrorized 27 vehicle owners during a ten-day carjacking spree spread over three counties and 15 cities according to authorities and media reports. This case calls for adult prison time for adult crime.

Not only shocking because of the scope and breadth of their crimes, the case was also entirely preventable. Wertman was currently on probation supervision stemming from an assault and robbery case when he was a juvenile and had a pending felony weapons charge for possessing a gun as a prohibited person. Wertman should have been detained on the gun charge pending trial.

According to criminal complaints filed Friday in Hennepin County, Wertman and Argue robbed drivers at gunpoint in driveways, motel parking lots, at schools, daycare facilities, even holding up food delivery drivers. The nearly two dozen carjacking-related offenses occurred in St. Louis Park, Plymouth, Richfield, Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis, Edina, White Bear Lake, Roseville, Columbia Heights, Lakeville, Eagan, Little Canada, Burnsville, Woodbury and St. Paul. A total of 10 vehicles were stolen violently from victims, and then used to commit other offenses.

In carrying out their crimes, Wertman and Argue approached unsuspecting victims, most of whom were women, and punched them in the face or threatened to shoot them. The suspects’ crime spree began in broad daylight on Jan. 7 when the unsuspecting victim momentarily stepped into her St. Louis Park house while her Toyota Rav4 idled in the driveway.

Less than two hours later they used the stolen vehicle to steal a Jeep Cherokee from a food delivery driver in White Bear Lake. The Jeep was used again two days later in the carjackings of a mother headed to her child’s basketball game at a school in Plymouth and a woman in a grocery store parking lot in Little Canada.

The two posted photos of themselves on social media, sometimes even inside the stolen vehicle. Another post shows Wertman holding a firearm with an extended magazine. When arrested, an emboldened Wertman told officers they should be out arresting murderers and not car thieves, the criminal complaint said.

Wertman has been charged with carjacking and theft-related offenses on 17 counts, while Argue faces 14 counts. This investigation remains active according to investigators.

Law enforcement leaders understand that resources should be properly focused on the most serious threats posed by violent criminals who use firearms to commit crimes. Wertman’s prior arrest for the felony gun charge and probation status were strong indicators he should have been detained prior to trial.

Another option available here is to refer the case for federal prosecution. Carjacking is a federal crime and carries a 15-year prison sentence, 25 years if the victim suffers serious injury. There is no parole in the federal criminal justice system, so a criminal is likely to be incarcerated for a longer period of time than in a state system such as Minnesota. To this end, the carjacking crime spree carried out by Wertman and Argue should be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution. Adult prison time for adult crime.