Two years ago, U.S. Army Spc Michael Sharkey was deployed to Afghanistan, and lived with his wife, Danielle, in Wahiawa, Hawaii, where he was stationed at the time. A month before the family moved back to their home in New Port Richey, Florida, they received some devastating news.
The Sharkey’s home was inhabited by two squatters who claimed that they had the right to live in the house. According to the family, the two broke into the home, changed the locks, and refused to leave the Westend Avenue home.
Worse still, the Pasco County Sheriff's department informed the couple that they had had no legal grounds to evict the pair of ex-convicts.
Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso, gave a completely different version of accounts.
Ortiz told a local news channel that he was given permission to live in the home after he had a verbal agreement with Lisa Pettus, Sharkey's friend, to carry out repairs in the home in exchange for free housing.
However, Sharkey and Pettus maintained that Ortiz was lying. Pettus was in charge of the incomplete house when the family moved to Hawaii.
According to Pettus, she gave Ortiz supplies to use to renovate the home, but never discussed any living arrangements for him and his girlfriend.
When Danielle Sharkey, wife and mother of three, returned to Florida on New Year's Eve, she asked a sheriff's deputy to help remove the intruders.
She was informed that her case was a civil matter, so the officer’s hands were tied.
“I work hard, long hours, and these people never had permission to live in my home” Sharkey told WFLA. “They should be thrown out.”
The Sharkeys were also privy to the couple’s extensive criminal backgrounds, and this worried them.
42-year-old Ortiz had served a combined total of 12 years in a New Jersey prison for selling drugs on school property, robbery, and carjacking.
Cardoso had served over two years in prison for drug charges, and had a rap sheet with over a half-dozen arrests.
“They are criminals. I am serving my country, and they have more rights to my home than I do,” Sharkey stated.
The Florida Adverse Possession Law states that anyone who possesses the property, usually land, of another continuously for seven years has the right to claim legal title to that land.
Ortiz maintained that he would only leave the home when he was good and ready.