When U.S. Army Spc Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan, he left behind his wife, Danielle, at their home in Wahiawa, Hawaii. Although they’d been spending the majority of their time on the base in Hawaii, their true home was back in New Port Richie, Florida, where they had trusted people to look after the property. However, about a month before, Sharkey and his wife were ready to finally make their way back to Florida. They learned the shocking news that two squatters, including a former convict, were living in the home without Sharkey’s permission.
While the news was very upsetting to the veteran, he thought the law would be on his side, and the ordeal would be cleared up in a matter of months. But it just wasn’t that easy. As it turned out, the ex-con squatter and his accomplice claimed to have been given permission to live in the New Port Richie property and refused to leave.
The family tells a different story. They say that the ex-convict broke into the home while Sharkey was serving in the military, changed the locks on the doors, and then pretended to be true tenants of the home on Westend Avenue.
Even the Pasco County Sheriff’s department didn’t want to touch the case. The Sheriff’s office told Sharkey and his wife that they had no legal grounds to force the ex-convict squatters out of the Florida property. After risking his life in the military for so long, Sharkey just wanted to lounge around his Florida home. He couldn’t believe that that dream was dead before it even got off the ground.
The ex-convict was Julio Ortiz. He and his girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso, had set up residence in the home and were more than happy to prove everything to the Sheriff’s department. Their scheme was so airtight that the cops couldn’t do anything about it.
Ortiz bypassed the authorities and went straight to the local media, telling them that he had permission to live in the New Port Richie property. Ortiz made a verbal agreement with Lisa Pettus, Sharkey’s friend, and was allowed to live in the house for free so long as he made the necessary repairs on the property.
Both Sharkey and Pettus maintain that Ortiz was lying about that arrangement. Pettus has been given command of the home while the Sharkeys were in Hawaii, and she never made such an arrangement with Ortiz and his girlfriend. Pettus has given Ortiz supplies to fix the home but never gave him permission to live there.
Danielle was the one who initially went to the New Port Richie police. They told her she was dealing with a civil matter and that the police couldn’t use force to scare away the squatters.
“I work hard, long hours, and these people never had permission to live in my home” Sharkey told WFLA. “They should be thrown out.”
Sharkey felt betrayed by America.
“They are criminals. I am serving my country, and they have more rights to my home than I do.”
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