Suspected New Port Richey squatter arrested - WNCN: News, Weather

Suspected New Port Richey squatter arrested

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Pasco County Sheriff's deputies took suspected squatter Julio Ortiz into custody Monday morning. Pasco County Sheriff's deputies took suspected squatter Julio Ortiz into custody Monday morning.
Pasco County Sheriff's deputies took suspected squatter Julio Ortiz into custody Monday morning. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo Pasco County Sheriff's deputies took suspected squatter Julio Ortiz into custody Monday morning. Pasco Sheriff's Office photo
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PASCO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Julio Ortiz, the man who is accused of "squatting" and taking over a deployed New Port Richey soldier's home has been arrested.

Pasco County Sheriff's deputies took Ortiz into custody Monday morning after an 8 On Your Side investigation uncovered Ortiz and his girlfriend living in the house.

His girlfriend, Fatima Cardoso, was also arrested.

They were charged with grand theft for stealing thousands of dollars in electricity. Sheriff Chris Nocco said the pair allegedly illegally diverted power for their use while living in the home.

The homeowner, Spc. Michael Sharkey, is deployed in Hawaii.

8 On Your Side broke the story of the pair living in the house without Sharkey’s permission.

“They are criminals living in my house,” he said.

The community and veterans groups were outraged. The pressure led the couple to move out last week, in the middle of the night.

But outrage continued as some in the community questioned why the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office didn’t arrest the squatters.

Ortiz insists that Lisa Pettus, a friend of Sharkey’s wife, made a deal to allow him to live in the house rent free. In exchange, he says, he was helping her renovate the home.

Pettus tells 8 On Your Side, however, that’s a lie. She says Ortiz knew one of her friends and agreed to help her do some work around the house. Two months after the work was complete, she says, she drove by to check on the house, and found Ortiz living there.

It’s that story that helped convince the Sheriff’s Office to conclude the situation is a civil matter. Sharkey’s wife and Pettus went with deputies to the house on New Year’s Eve, but the Sheriff’s Office said they could not help.

On Monday, Nocco held a news conference explaining the day’s arrests and defend his department’s decision.

Nocco explained his department was also upset about the situation and wanted to help the soldier, but had to go by the law.

“If our citizens are upset about the actions of Julio Ortiz now, imagine if we had to write him a check because we didn't do our job,” Nocco said.

Ortiz and Cardoso face several years in prison, if convicted for stealing electricity.

Meanwhile, Veteran Warriors is coordinating a massive cleanup and remodel of the property. They hope to have the house ready when Sharkey family returns home in June.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.


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