Soldiers vs squatters
When a Florida soldier was called into action he thought his home was in good hands. But now, he says squatters have moved in and they appear to have more power than he does.
Thursday, April 24th 2014, 9:23 PM EDT by
Wednesday, April 18th 2018, 12:46 PM EDT
When we first found this guy, living in a soldier's house, without permission, he was not happy to see us.
Reporter, "Do you have a lease?"
Julio Ortiz, squatter, "There is no lease, there was a contract."
Julio Ortiz describes this "contract" as a verbal agreement with a friend of the soldier to fix up this New Port Richey home in exchange for living there, rent free. The friend tells us there was no agreement and Ortiz moved in months after their work was done.
He eventually invited us inside to show off that work.
Julio Ortiz, "As you can see, Look. They didn't have no cabinets. I put cabinets; I put stove. I put everything into this house."
(via SKYPE: Michael Starkey/Homeowner), "I want the people out. They're criminals living in my house."
Michael Sharkey owns the house. Right now, he's stationed in Hawaii, last year, it was Afghanistan. His house was supposed to be empty, but Sharkey says Ortiz and his girlfriend, Fatima, moved in and changed the locks.
(via SKYPE: Michael Starkey/Homeowner) "I have never spoke to these people in my life."
From Afghanistan, he called the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. His wife flew in from Hawaii on New Year's Eve. She called deputies to help take back their house. But, they told her it's a civil matter and they can't make the squatters leave without a formal eviction signed by a judge.
Furious, Sharkey reached out to eight on your side. (via SKYPE: Michael Starkey/Homeowner ) "Basically, what you're telling me is just because they're in the house and took up residence they can live there. So ok, I can just go down the street and kick in the door and start living there, and that's my residence? I don't think that would work."
And what about fixing up the house? Sharkey says that's a lie too. Ortiz was supposed to help his friend, not move in.
(via SKYPE: Michael Starkey/Homeowner) "She supplied the kitchen cabinets, the counter tops, everything that was in the kitchen, all the paint, all the supplies and everything to redo the house and get it livable for somebody to rent it. These people took advantage of that and just decided to move in. "
They're using buckets for water. Without a lease, Ortiz can't get the water company to turn it on. And with the law is his side he says he'll move out when he's good and ready. "I don't want no problems. You can see my jacket. I'm 42 years old. I don't got nothing. Not a ticket."
The station did dig into Ortiz's background, and found a lengthy criminal record. He spent a combined twelve years in prison in New Jersey for robbery, car jacking and selling drugs on school property. Both he and his girlfriend have been arrested multiple times in Pasco County.
The Sheriff's Office confirms this is a civil matter. It says that once someone has taken up residence in your home, law enforcement won't kick them out. So, even though Mr. Sharkey says these people broke in, he'll have to go through the formal eviction process.
It's a real warning to make sure someone you trust is watching your vacant property.