When U.S. Army Spc Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan two years ago, he could never imagine that he would have to wage a legal battle just to get his Florida house back from a pair of ex-convicts who had settled there in his absence.
Sharkey and his wife, Danielle, live in Wahiawa, Hawaii, where the soldier is currently stationed, but in a little over a month, the family are expected to return to New Port Richey, Florida, where they own a house.
However, the Sharkeys’ homecoming has been complicated by the presence of squatters in their one-story residence in the 6800 block of Westend Avenue.
According the solider and his wife, the strangers had broken into their home, changed the locks and are refusing to leave.
To add insult to injury, officials at the Pasco County Sheriff’s department have informed the couple that they have no legal grounds to evict the man and woman.
The couple living in Sharkeyâs home, identified as Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso, have offered a different version of events.
Ortiz insisted to a local news channel that he has permission to live in the Sharkeys’ house because he had entered into a verbal agreement with the soldier’s friend to make repairs to the residence in exchange for rent-free housing.
Mr Sharkey dismissed the squatterâs claims as lies, as did his friend Lisa Pettus, who was left in charge of the unfinished home on Westend Avenue when the family moved to Hawaii.
According to Miss Pettus, Ortiz has agreed to renovate the family’s home with the supplies she had provided, but their deal never included a living arrangement for the handyman and his girlfriend.
When Sharkey’s wife and mother of three, Danielle Sharkey, returned to Florida on New Year’s Eve, she came by the house with a sheriff’s deputy in tow hoping to remove the intruders.
But the law enforcement official informed her that because it was a civil matter, his hands were tied.
Now, the couple will likely be on the hook for hundreds of dollars in legal fees for filing for eviction.
âI work hard, long hours, and these people never had permission to live in my home’ the outraged serviceman told the station WFLA. ‘They should be thrown out.â
Another cause for concern for the Sharkeys is the squatters’ extensive criminal backgrounds.
Ortiz, 42, served a combined 12 years behind bars in New Jersey for robbery, selling drugs on school property and carjacking.
His so-called better half, Miss Cardoso, served more than two years in prison on drug charges, and she has more than a half-dozen arrests in her rap sheet.
âThey are criminals,â Spc Sharkey said. âI am serving my country, and they have more rights to my home than I do.â
Under an obscure Florida real estate law, anyone who possesses the land of another for seven years has the right to claim legal title to that land.
A defiant Julio Ortiz said he wonât leave the New Port Richey home until he is good and ready. – Mail Online