Community renovates soldier's home after squatters left a mess - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

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Community renovates soldier's home after squatters left a mess

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NEW PORT RICHEY, FL - Wednesday marked a special homecoming for a New Port Richey soldier.

Michael Sharkey and his family returned home this afternoon to a big surprise.

Volunteers with a group called Veteran's Warriors have spent weeks transforming Specialist Michael Sharkey's home after squatters tore it apart. They group planned a huge unveiling of the transformed home Wednesday at noon. About 200 contractors, volunteers and supporters were expected to attend.

Sharkey first left his home for deployment in Afghanistan, and then his family lived with him while he was stationed in Hawaii. While away, squatters took over their Pasco County home and refused to leave.

Their friend called 8 On Your Side when she had no luck getting rid of the unwanted house guests. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office couldn't help either because the squatters claimed to have a verbal agreement with another Sharkey family friend to stay at the home.

Sharkey insisted he knew nothing of this and said these squatters broke into his home. He wanted them out.

Public support for the Sharkeys and outrage at the squatters ended up forcing Julio Ortiz and his girlfriend out of the home in the middle of the night. They were both arrested for stealing electricity at the house. Ortiz posted bond and then was arrested a few days later for robbing a bank.

The Sharkeys were thrilled the squatters left, but the the house was left a mess.

Veteran Warriors volunteers say the community and area businesses donated thousands of dollars to fix up the house.

"We couldn't let them come home to a mess," said Lauren Price, who organized the cleanup for Veteran Warriors.
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