Squatters left dogs at soldier's house in New Port Richey - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Squatters left dogs at soldier's house in New Port Richey

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One of the dogs left at the soldier's house One of the dogs left at the soldier's house
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  • Squatters moving out of New Port Richey soldier's home

    Squatters moving out of New Port Richey soldier's home

    Thursday, April 24 2014 6:50 AM EDT2014-04-24 10:50:51 GMT
    Squatters begin moving out of Spc. Michael Sharkey's home on Wednesday night.Squatters begin moving out of Spc. Michael Sharkey's home on Wednesday night.
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community and now, the squatters are moving out. 
    Our 8 On Your Side story about a New Port Richey soldier who says his home has been taken over by squatters is striking a nerve in the community and now, the squatters are moving out.  
NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (WFLA) - The house of Army Spc. Michael Sharkey sat almost empty early Thursday morning after two squatters said they moved out the day before. Two dogs left in the house were barking all morning and one of them got out.

After an '8 ON YOUR SIDE' investigation, Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend started packing up their belongings at the house they occupied. Ortiz initially said he had a right to stay at the house because of the agreement with the soldier's friend. Ortiz changed his tune Wednesday night after WFLA News Channel 8 ran multiple stories about the squatters on air and online.

Early Thursday morning the house seemed unoccupied. A few belongings were scattered on the front yard and two dogs were barking in the house. One of the animals jumped out of a broken window and ran around the yard. A Pasco County Sheriff's deputy responded to the scene waiting for the animal control to get to the house.

When Animal Control trappers arrived they eventually captured both dogs. Ortiz's friends came over and took the animals. Duke Energy crews came to the house to investigate how the squatters got electricity at the house.

Duke’s investigators determined that the squatters have been stealing electricity for more than a year. While the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office determined the squatting is a civil matter, Duke plans to go after them for federal criminal charges.

A New Port Richey organization, called Veteran Warriors, is organizing a cleanup and remodel of the house. Founder Lauren Price says dozens of veterans and concerned citizens have contacted her hoping to help.

"There's a lot of cosmetic work to be done, but this is the best case scenario, and we can't thank Channel 8 enough for coming and putting this pressure on these people, and keeping it on until they actually just caved and moved out," Price said.

The squatters left behind a mess to clean up. Price says Lowe’s donated wood and supplies to secure the home and local construction professionals volunteered to help with cleanup. Price hopes to start that process in two weeks.

Neighbors say they are thrilled the trouble makers are finally gone.

Sharkey says this whole situation is overwhelming and he is grateful for the community support.

"I'm used to doing things for everyone else; this is the first time someone has done something for me," Sharkey told News Channel 8 Thursday. "It's pretty much like my extended family, wearing the same uniform as me."

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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