When soldier Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he asked a friend to watch over his New Port Richey house. Sharkey and his wife are now living in Hawaii where he is currently stationed. They plan to move back into their New Port Richey home someday. But, right now they are fighting to get their house back.
They say strangers broke in, changed the locks, moved in and they refuse to leave.
“I want the people out,” said Sharkey. “They’re criminals living in my house.”
Sharkey was shocked to find out that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says it can’t do anything about the squatters.
Here’s where it gets complicated.
When 8 On Your Side went to check out the situation, we found a man named Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso, living in the soldier’s home. They offered no apologies. They say they know Sharkey doesn’t want them there, but they’re not leaving until they’re ready.
“I don’t want problems,” Ortiz said. “We’re not doing anything wrong.”
Ortiz says he has permission to be in the house, just not from Sharkey, the home’s owner. Ortiz says he doesn’t need a lease because he has a “contract.” He described this contract as a verbal agreement with a friend of the soldier to fix up the home, in exchange for living there rent free.
Ortiz said the plan was to fix up the house and then eventually work out a deal with Sharkey to rent the place.
But, Sharkey says this is all lies. He says he’s never seen or talked to Ortiz.
Lisa Pettus, who is Sharkey’s friend, told 8 On Your Side there was no agreement with Ortiz . She says she met Ortiz through a friend and he agreed to help her fix up Sharkey’s home while he was away in the military. She says she supplied all of the supplies and Ortiz and his girlfriend were never left alone in the house.