A Florida soldier who served in Afghanistan and is currently deployed in Hawaii was shocked to find his home taken over by squatters, reports WFLA. Before his deployment to Afghanistan, solider Michael Sharkey entrusted one of his friends to watch over his New Port Richey property till he gets back. Michael was planning to get back to Florida some day and live with his wife there. However, all of his plans went for a toss when he learnt that squatters had illegally occupied his house and are living there without his permission. What's worse? The local Sheriff's office says it cannot do anything about the squatters. Sharkey currently lives in Hawaii with his wife and wants to come back to Florida to their New Port Richey home. However right now, he is fighting a battle to get his rightful home back from these squatters.
"I want the people out. They're criminals living in my house", Sharkey told WFLA.
After learning about the issue, WFLA's 8 On Your Side team went to check on the situation and found that a man named Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso were indeed living in Michael's home. They openly acknowledged that they are squatters and are occupying someone else's property but unapologetically added that they have no plans to leave until they choose to. He also had the audacity to say, "I don't want problems. We're not doing anything wrong."
Ortiz and his girlfriend added that he actually had received permission to live inside the house from the friend who had been entrusted to look after the property in Sharkey's absence. In fact, he harped about the fact that he has a verbal "contract" with Sharkey's friend Lisa Pettus who according to him let him live there and fix up the home in exchange for living there without paying rent. Sharkey and his friend have both rubbished this claim by the squatters.
Lisa Pettus however does agree that she had asked for Ortiz' help to fix up Sharkey's home while he was away. But she also adds that everything that Ortiz needed to fix the home was provided to him and that at no point of time were he and his girlfriend left alone in the house. However, two months after this, Pettus drove by the house only to find the squatters living there! A shocked Lisa tells, "I couldn't believe it. And now they're using my name to justify this. It's wrong."
In order to evict the squatters from the property, Michael's wife contacted the Sheriff's office and went to the property with a deputy. However, when the deputy was told of the verbal contract, he said they wouldn't be able to help because it was a civil matter. What this means is that Michael would have to approach court and file a formal eviction notice. To make things even more outrageous, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman said that the squatters "have established residency in the home, so it would take a court order to evict them now."
In short, Sharkey who is the legal owner of the place is the one who has to go to court, spend hundreds of dollars to evict squatters living in his property! He is also worried about the possibility of the squatters damaging his home when he does file an eviction notice.
Meanwhile, both the squatters illegally occupying Sharkey's home have criminal records. Ortiz has spent a combined twelve years in prison for offences ranging from robbery and carjacking to selling drugs on school property. He was released in 2011. As for Fatima, she has served a two-year sentence on drug charges before being released in 2006.
Isn't it appalling to see that squatters with criminal records and who are clearly on the wrong side of the law seem to have more rights that a soldier who has served his country?
[Images via Yahoo]