Florida soldier’s home renovated, accused squatters gone

NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (BAY NEWS 9/CNN) — A happy homecoming Wednesday for a soldier in New Port Richey, Florida.

His home, which had been nearly destroyed by squatters, was renovated and ready for him to move in.

With three simple words the Sharkey family got their first glimpse of their newly remodeled home.

“I was expecting to come back to a disaster from what I saw and what I heard. And I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” US Army Spc. Michael Sharkey said.

Broken windows, torn up floors and filth everywhere. This is the before shot of the Sharkey home.

Julio Ortiz and Fatima Cardosa
Julio Ortiz and Fatima Cardosa

The aftermath of accused squatters Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend Fatima Cardoso, who Sharkey says took over the place while he was deployed in Afghanistan.

Detectives discovered that Ortiz had been siphoning electricity from nearby homes, the sheriff’s office said. Ortiz was charged with grand theft.

Cardoso was charged with violating probation because she has 21 arrests, including felonies, and was in a home with illegal activity occurring. Ortiz and Cardoso were both arrested in late April.

“All I wanted was them out and the house boarded up and I was going to work on it here and there and try to get it back to being livable,” Spc. Sharkey said.

A group called Veteran Warriors headed up an effort to clean up and renovate the home. Community volunteers donated their time and skills, and local businesses donated materials for the repairs.

Workers even put in new sod and landscaping.

Then they surprised the family at today’s homecoming celebration.

“They’re clean, they’re beautiful, the kids have their own rooms back,” Spc. Sharkey said. “This is the house that I raised my family in. My boys grew up here. My daughter grew up here also. We lived here for 16 years.”

And now, it’s livable once again.

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