Soldier’s home taken over by convicted drug dealers

Returning home after war is supposed to be a joyous experience.

Not so for U.S. soldier Michael Sharkey, who, after returning in one piece from Afghanistan, found his home has been taken over by squatters with multiple felony drug convictions.

Sharkey tells WFLA-TV in Tampa that he left his home in New Port Richey when he was deployed to Afghanistan about two years ago. The Army specialist asked a friend, Lisa Pettus, to fix up the home and try to rent it in his absence.

Pettus said she asked the squatter, Julio Ortiz, to renovate the home with supplies she provided, but weeks after the work was complete he broke in, changed the locks and moved in.

Ortiz and his girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso, refuse to leave.

Sharkey asked the Pasco County sheriff for help but was told the couple had “established residence” and Starkey must spend hundreds of dollars to legally evict the unwanted tenants.

Since Ortiz does not have a lease, he cannot apply for utilities, including water.

Ortiz was confronted by a TV reporter as he lugged buckets of water into the home. At first he told the reporter to put away the TV camera, saying he had “9 pit bulls” inside, but he later gave a tour of Sharkey’s home, which looks like it still needs plenty of repairs.

Ortiz said he is living rent free because he worked on the home. He told the TV crew that he is 42 and “doesn’t want any problems.” He said he has lived a clean life and has never even gotten “a ticket.”

WFLA accepted the challenge and did a criminal background check.

Ortiz has spent 12 years in prison in New Jersey for robbery, carjacking and selling drugs on school property.

Cardoso served more than two years in prison on drug charges.

Ortiz and Cardoso have been arrested multiple times in Pasco County.

My question? If anyone can kick down the door of a vacant home and start living there without paying rent, why are homeless people living on the streets?

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41 comments Add your comment


April 24th, 2014
9:56 am

Looks like the sheriff is scared of the criminals.

Len Griffijn

April 24th, 2014
9:57 am

In Georgia if anyone spends 30 days in a dwelling ——They are tenants—-even if they never paid a cent. You then file a fee with the county and a complaint. The “Tenant” has 14 days to reply ((after they are served)) , then a court date is set about 30 days later. Then the court orders them to leave in 14 days


April 24th, 2014
10:08 am

Now, who has the right to stand their ground? This is our judicial system in need of repairs.


April 24th, 2014
10:12 am

Seems to me, in the dark of the night, the returning soldier should simply put to use his military training, eliminate the targets, and recapture his “base of operations”


April 24th, 2014
10:37 am

Ortez and Fatima should be removed, not from just this house, but from America…deport them now.

Don't Tread

April 24th, 2014
11:02 am

So if somebody steals your car and drives it for 30 days, it legally becomes theirs?


Well that shouldn’t apply to houses either. Squatters should be immediately locked up and should spend at least as much time in prison as a car thief does. (It also solves their problem of finding somewhere to live.)

Tee Banks

April 24th, 2014
11:10 am

aint no way… way in hell. My husband would have burn the b—- once he saw them leave to go grocery shopping .


April 24th, 2014
12:05 pm

^^Pretty smart because FD/PD would think the vagrants did it. lol

Lucas Davenport

April 24th, 2014
12:18 pm

@Andy, @Tee Yep, and the insurance is still in your name so you get rid of the squatters and a renovation – at the same damn time.


April 24th, 2014
12:22 pm

These people deserve whatever comes to them. If this doesn’t support the case to stop immigration, I don’t know what does. Between the foreigners and the Obama administration, we will be a third-world country yet!

Mr. Johnson

April 24th, 2014
12:27 pm

So, I wonder if the “friend” has any ties with the squatters? I’m thinking that if she was really a friend all of this would have been cleared up before the owner returned home.

If it were my friend’s home, the squatters would be calling the sheriff on me.

Just my thoughts….

Kyle Dawson

April 24th, 2014
12:36 pm

I had a very similar experience.
The summer after I graduated from college, while I was waiting to report to basic training I took on a home renovation project for a couple who had moved to Chicago because of a job transfer.
My lease was up for my apartment and I did not want to sign a new one because I was leaving town in less than three months.
A neighbor purchased all of the supplies that I needed and I did all the labor for the renovations and I agreed to pay my brother in law for helping me on weekends whenever I got paid.
The homeowner agreed that I could live in the house rent free while working on the house.
I moved in and completed all of the work within about six weeks.
The home owners paid me for some of the labor, but did not cover my out of pocket costs or the additional labor I ended having to do after discovering problems that were not obvious when I estimated the job.
My brother in law is a lawyer and he suggested I continue living in the house until they paid me or that I rent it out to a third party and offset the balance they owed me by collecting rent.
My basic training got pushed back three months and I ended up staying in the home during that time.
Eventually the homeowner hired an attorney who initiated eviction proceedings.

Typical Georgian

April 24th, 2014
12:38 pm

@Kyle, are you a white guy?

Kyle Dawson

April 24th, 2014
12:39 pm

Yes, I am. Why do you ask?

Typical Georgian

April 24th, 2014
12:41 pm

Because if you said no I was gonna say you should be shot and deported and say we’re turning into a third world country and It’s all Obama’s fault.
But since you said yes I think your situation is totally different from the one in the news story and you had every right to stay in the house.
Do you by chance remember if the homeowners were Chinese or Jewish or anything?

Kyle Dawson

April 24th, 2014
12:43 pm

As far as I know they were white Christians and they always vote Republican.

Typical Georgian

April 24th, 2014
12:44 pm

We might have a problem here.

Mr. Johnson

April 24th, 2014
12:47 pm

@Kyle, thanks for the point-of-view. Speaking for myself, I was only looking at it from the owner’s perspective. However, I think your situation is different. You were staying there because you needed to recover extra additional wages for the additional work.

The article didn’t stated that the squatters were looking to recover wages. So it leaves us to assume that they just wanted to live there for free. That being said, the journalist may have left out key pieces of information in an effort to get people wound up….

Who knows…


April 24th, 2014
12:56 pm

Click the WFLA-TV link and watch the video. Julio and the GF appear to be total dirtbags.

It would be interesting to know why FL law still permits squatters to “establish residence”. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see in blue states like CA, IL or NY.

Mumblin' Mark

April 24th, 2014
1:18 pm

I think Don’t Tread is dumb because he doesn’t understand the difference between a house and a car.


April 24th, 2014
1:22 pm

I think we are missing the bigger problem here. So in FLA, if your home is vacant and someone moves in and lives for 14 days, you can’t just kick them out. Say you live in Minnesota in the Summer and FL in the winter. Does this mean that when you head north that anyone can take over your home and live there until you come back at which time they can still “legally” reside there until you get a court order to remove them?

If I remember correctly, the law in Georgia states that the home must be vacant for a period of time no less than 2 years to be considered for squatters rights. If you squat on vacant land/property, build a residence with foundation, and live there for 7 years with no right to claim by the owner, I think you can legally claim it as yours and the owner has very little recourse to reclaim as it is out of the statute of limitations.


April 24th, 2014
1:45 pm

I don’t know what Georgia law is. But JOE’S LAW says that if you are on my property without my permission and you refuse to leave then you will be forcibly removed by Joe. I don’t bother with lawyers, warrants, and crap like that.


April 24th, 2014
1:46 pm

Legalist……with so many snowbirds in Fla, when the thugs find out about this loophole, we will be hearing about it often. If Gov Scott gets interested, he will end this crazy law. I hope!


April 24th, 2014
1:48 pm

Joe, good call, my man!!!!

Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane

April 24th, 2014
2:20 pm

Dear Joe and all the other internet tough guys:

States codify certain requirements in order to assure that tenancy rights are guaranteed and also to provide for a peaceful and orderly procedure for terminating tenancy rights.
If you rent your home to someone or if someone reasonably believes they have the right to be on property and you decide they are confused about their rights and you act violently in efforts to remove them from the property you can and will feel the full weight of the law come down upon your soft little head.
If you are not smart enough to learn and remember the various applicable laws I suggest you avoid ever being in the landlord business.
Better yet, just never leave your home. That way you don’t have to worry about becoming another victim of this rampant problem.


April 24th, 2014
2:22 pm

Why not wait until they leave, kick in the door and change the locks; put their stuff out. They don’t have a lease.


April 24th, 2014
2:26 pm

Sometimes there are really great benefits to belonging to a motorcycle club. You have lots of great friends to help you move, just pick who. =D

Brock Lesner

April 24th, 2014
2:43 pm

@Roc – because tenancy rights can be created even in the absence of a lease. And if you kick in the door you can be charged with trespassing and likely other things including conversion and assault.
And if you remove items from the home and put them on the curb and those items get damaged or stolen the tenant/squatter/handyman has the right to sue you for the replacement value of those items.
And yes, this is all true even if your name is on the deed to the house. Learn the law and stop acting so stupid.


April 24th, 2014
2:43 pm

“My question? If anyone can kick down the door of a vacant home and start living there without paying rent, why are homeless people living on the streets?”

Damn good question!! SMDH…


April 24th, 2014
3:17 pm

Roscoe, this is Georgia. Your liberal ideas about giving drug dealers a home via loopholes in tenancy law will not fly here. The simple fact is this: Someone occupying your property without permission is trespassing. If the sheriff refuses to do his job, then do it for him. Don’t be a victim. Put a boot in their butt and get them off your property. Odds are the district attorney isn’t going to waste time and money putting you on trial for protecting your own property, especially when the jury pool is made up of like-minded property owners too.


April 24th, 2014
3:31 pm

Squatters should be removed only one way. Lying flat on a stretcher. Squatting is nothing more than common thievery.


April 24th, 2014
3:40 pm

Amen, Joe. These people may have been inhabiting the property under color of law based on the renovations — it was not that clear from the story. However, at least in Georgia, trespassers who simply break in and squat can be evicted without any legal process. If the trespasser resists, breaches the peace, or otherwise place the homeowner in fear of physical harm, the homeowner can defend his life and his property. No DA in the state of Georgia would prosecute such a homeowner.

Adverse possession in Georgia requires 7 years open and obvious possession of developed land under claim of right.

Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane

April 24th, 2014
4:21 pm

Sorry, Wrecker, just because you know some words and you string them together to make a statement does not make the statement true.
I am only suggesting that you tough guys learn the law before you transition from internet tough talk to actual door kicking.
This story did not involve someone kicking in a door. It involved a contractor entering the premises legally and then remaining on the premises under what is arguably colorable rights. If you then kick in the door and harm him or one of his invited guests you are in violation of GA or FL law.
Look it up and stop showing your ignorance so much.

Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane

April 24th, 2014
4:24 pm

Breaking and entering has always been illegal. So has burglary.
In this case Mr. Ortiz did neither.
If the homeowner attempted to remove him Mr. Ortiz would be within his rights to shoot him.


April 24th, 2014
4:36 pm

Fire always gets rid of rats.


April 24th, 2014
5:17 pm

So let me get this right, the state of Florida will let a veteran, who fought for our freedom and safety be on the streets, so some lazy convicts can live free in the veterans house. What a sad lazy law enforcement agency!!!


April 24th, 2014
6:58 pm

Sounds like a good time to bulldoze your home and build a new home

Hidden Agenda

April 24th, 2014
10:04 pm

That’s right, this is the government you risked your life to serve. The same one that has been destroying property and personal rights every minute of every day while you were killing and fighting people who lacked all power to undermine or take away our rights (despite the lies you tell yourself). Property rights became a thing of the past without a doubt in the mid 60s, but as the actions against Mr. Bundy, the rising tide of property taxes (and with them property confiscation), illegal searches and seizures, civil asset forfeiture, and blatant confiscation for private development (Connecticut case) show, the government continues its relentless onslaught.

That this soldier finds this kind of America when he gets back from the overseas Empire outpost should show him that maybe he misjudged where the real enemies of freedom are hanging out.


April 28th, 2014
10:59 am

Hidden Agenda, the government is not federal but state and local that is responsible for property rights. Before you go on your rants, you may want to familiarize yourself to which government you want to blame.

And who is so foolish to support a freeloading, mooching racist is probably as ignorant and misguided as Bundy.

I am sympathetic to this soldiers plight and support his efforts to evict these squatters but also know which government is responsible.


April 28th, 2014
2:43 pm

Unfortunately, coj, you are only half the idiot you thought you were. And you were on a roll, too.
The Sailors and Soldiers Relief Act is a federal law.
While real property disputes and real property taxation issues are generally within the purview of state superior courts, there are federal rights of action related to real property that create original jurisdiction in federal courts.
However, I am sympathetic to your plight and I support your right to stop typing and start learning and try again tomorrow to not be so stupid.


April 29th, 2014
8:24 am

Ronald if you care to look at the REAL issues of this story, you’d see that this is not a case of federal jurisdiction. It is a civil matter and handled in a local court, not a federal court.

Cite me your dubious source for your ludicrous claim that this is a federal matter. I really do feel sorry for you extremists who love to blame the federal government for all your perceived problems. Maybe you should just man-up and take some responsibility for your own lives than to blame the feds. What a doofus.