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3rd of 3 accused in home invasions, kidnappings, torture, shootings, homicide over 20-day span convicted

Ivan Santiago

MILWAUKEE — The third of three men from Milwaukee charged in a series of home invasions, kidnappings, torture, shootings and a homicide — crimes that took place within a 20-day span — between Oct. 11 and Oct. 31, 2017 was convicted Wednesday, May 15.

A jury found Ivan Santiago, 24, guilty on the following counts:

  • Attempted armed robbery, as party to a crime
  • First degree recklessly endangering safety, as party to a crime, use of a dangerous weapon — two counts
  • Possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a felony
  • Possession with intent to deliver THC, greater than 200 to 1,000 grams
  • First degree intentional homicide, as party to a crime, use of a dangerous weapon
  • Armed robbery with use of force, a party to a crime — two counts
  • Burglary while armed with a dangerous weapon, as party to a crime — two counts
  • Possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a felony

He was acquitted on two counts.

Ivan Santiago

Sentencing was scheduled for July 19.

Marco Felipe

Two others were previously sentenced to prison.

Marco Felipe, 25, of Milwaukee pleaded guilty to three charges in October 2018:

  • Armed robbery, as party to a crime
  • Burglary while armed with a dangerous weapon
  • First degree recklessly endangering safety, as party to a crime, use of a dangerous weapon

In court on April 25, Felipe was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison and nine years’ extended supervision — with credit for 538 days’ time served.

Rodolfo Pantojas-Juarez

Rodolfo Pantojas-Juarez, 26, of Milwaukee, in February 2019 pleaded guilty to three charges:

  • Burglary while armed with a dangerous weapon, as party to a crime — two counts
  • Felony murder

On March 22, he was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison and 15 years’ extended supervision.

It was zip ties, spent casings and witness interviews that led to the charges against them.

According to the 20-page criminal complaint, the three men were accused of being associated in some way with the following crimes in Milwaukee between Oct. 11, 2017 and Oct. 31, 2017:

  • Home invasion near 12th and Holt (Oct. 11)
  • Home invasion near 30th and Hayes (Oct. 19)
  • Kidnapping near 8th and Cleveland (Oct. 24)
  • Shooting a couple blocks south of 13th and Howard (Oct. 24)
  • Shooting near 32nd and Lincoln (Oct. 30)
  • Homicide of Humberto Varela-Cabaellero near 7th and Becher (Oct. 30)
  • Home invasion near 14th and Manitoba (Oct. 31)

According to prosecutors, police found a 9mm handgun at Santiago’s home. Police said spent casings at five scenes were connected to the crimes — one of those near 32nd and Lincoln. Police said Santiago fired the gun found at his home at a victim, who suffered four gunshot wounds, but survived.

Shooting at 32nd and Lincoln

Police also connected the gun to a homicide scene at 7th and Becher. Humberto Varela-Caballero, 30, died after prosecutors said Santiago and Pantojas-Juarez killed him while committing an armed robbery.

Rodolfo Pantojas-Juarez

Homicide near 7th and Becher

Jair Varela

“He was just like my dad. He took care of my family,” said Jair Varela, Varela-Caballero’s brother at Zizi’s Pizza, where he worked alongside his late brother. “I don’t wish this to no one. It’s so hard.”

Varela said his brother was killed as he brought food home to his pregnant girlfriend.

Humberto Varela-Caballero

Santiago was also connected to gun casings found at a shooting scene involving two Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) employees.

Prosecutors said Felipe was also connected to a number of crimes, and said he admitted to his involvement in two different home invasions in a 12-day window.

So why do it? Several witness statements indicated Pantojas-Juarez owed money to a Mexican cartel, and had one-and-a-half months to pay back his debts.

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