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UPDATE Squatters moving out of soldier's home

Posted: Updated:
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.
NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (WFLA) - WFLA's 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. 

A mini-van and a car sat in the driveway most of Wednesday evening, packed with belongings.

WFLA caught one squatter, Julio Ortiz, and his girlfriend, in the deployed soldier's home. Spc. Michael Sharkey thought his home was in good hands when he left to fight for our country in Afghanistan.


"I want the people out. They're criminals living in my house," said Sharkey, who is now stationed in Hawaii.

Ortiz claims he has a verbal agreement with a friend of a soldier to fix up the home in exchange for living there rent free.

"The people that are in this house cannot produce any documentation, lease, agreement, anything that they belong in that house," Sharkey said.

The Sheriff's Office won't intervene, saying this is a civil matter, but the veterans advocacy group says that's not enough.

Lauren Price, of Veterans Warriors, says Ortiz picked the wrong house to squat at. Price has heard from veterans around the world who want to help.

"I don't think he's a squatter. I think he's a criminal and what he did is breaking and entering," Price said.

Price and another veterans group found an attorney to handle the eviction process for free. They plan on keeping a close watch on the property to make sure the home is not vandalized. 

News Channel 8 uncovered the criminal background of Ortiz; learning he spent a combined 12 years in prison in New Jersey for robbery, car jacking, and selling drugs on school property.

If Ortiz and his girlfriend don't move, supporters of Sharkey in Tampa Bay are coming together, planning a motorcycle ride called "Sharkey's Ride" on Sunday to head to the home and peacefully make the squatters uncomfortable.


Many News Channel 8 viewers and Facebook followers are angry about what happened to soldier Michael Sharkey. Hundreds of people have posted comments on Facebook. WFLA also received phone calls, emails and Facebook posts from people offering to help Sharkey.

"I would like to help this family with this situation at no charge. We are owners of Link Processors and also do document preparing. If Mr. Sharkey would like our help please contact me," wrote Brenda Lee Link on the News Channel 8 Facebook page.

"This is atrocious. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. I am an Army Mom who knows all about deployments. Thank you for your service. Come FL residents, we need to help get this soldiers home back," wrote Terry Forester.

Other WFLA Facebook followers offered ideas about solving the soldier's squatter situation.

"I say we get about 25 people together one Sunday afternoon and let's go talk to the squatters and see if we can convince them to leave. I'm not joking," wrote David Edwards.

"Post a picture of the couple that is doing this and let their names and faces be known and maybe shame will change their minds. We should be honoring this soldier and his family for the sacrifices they have made for this country. Let their faces go viral," said Christina Harris.

"I think you should start a petition against the Pasco County Sheriff Department or write a letter to the Governor of Florida .. if that doesn't work write the a letter to the President telling him what you have done up to this letter to him and that you served your county and you deserve your rights to your home," wrote Rebecca Eades Tankersley.

Read the original story here.

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