Squatter moves into soldier's home while deployed

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. (NBC) -- 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.

So what are his rights in a case like this?

When we first found this guy, living in a soldier's house, without permission, he was not happy to see us.

WFLA reporter Shannon Behnken asked Julio Oritz, "Do you have a lease?"

"There is no lease, there was a contract," Ortiz replied.

Ortiz describes this "contract" as a verbal agreement with a friend of the soldier to fix up the New Port Richey home in exchange for living there, rent free.

The friend says there was no agreement, and Ortiz moved in months after their work was done.

Ortiz eventually invited Behnken and her crew into the home to show off the work.

"As you can see," Ortiz said. "Look. They didn't have no cabinets. I put cabinets; I put stove. I put everything into this house."

"I want the people out," said homeowner Michael Starkey via Skype. "They're criminals living in my house."

Right now, Sharkey is 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.

"I have never spoke to these people in my life," Sharkey said.

From Afghanistan, Sharkey 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 order, signed by a judge.

Furious, Sharkey reached out to WFLA's "8 on Your Side."

"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," Sharkey said.

And what about fixing up the house?

Sharkey says that's a lie too. Ortiz was supposed to help his friend, not move in.

"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," Sharkey said. "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 on his side, Ortiz says he'll move out when he's good and ready.

"I don't want no problems. You can see my jacket," Ortiz said. "I'm 42 years old. I don't got nothing. Not a ticket."

Behnken did dig into Ortiz's background and found a lengthy criminal record. He spent a combined 12 years in prison in New Jersey for robbery, carjacking 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 but once someone has taken up residence in your home, law enforcement won't kick them out. So, even though 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.


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