GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It wasn’t a violent crime. It left nobody physically injured. It was done with a pitch and a pen, and a contractor walked away with their money.

“I just didn’t want this to be viewed as a non-crime,” Robert Sriver said.

It wasn’t — but it took three years for Sriver and Joe Huys to get some justice.

“Even though this is not a physical, violent crime … you feel just as victimized,” Huys told the Van Buren County court.

They wanted contractor Trace Antcliff to build an addition to their Gobles home so Sriver’s mother could live with them. What he told them sounded great so they gave him $160,000 of her life savings to get started. He didn’t.

They eventually sued to get the money back but even that did no good. It took felony fraud charges and the threat of jail time to get Antcliff to pay half of it back. He brought to court a check for $75,000 to hold up his end of a plea deal keeping him out of prison.

“The effect that this has had on us over the past three years is traumatic and terrible,” Sriver told the court at Antcliff’s sentencing hearing this week.

“We’re essentially bankrupt in trying to make up that difference from that money, living paycheck to paycheck … and trying to care for my mother in the manner that she deserves and that we promised her,” he continued tearfully.

“He’s a predator and that’s all there is to it,” Huys told the judge, “because we’re not the only victims in the state of Michigan.”

Antcliff has left a trail of angry customers from one end of West Michigan to the other. Target 8 investigators first reported on him a year ago. At the time, he had racked up at least 30 lawsuits over two decades for various matters.

Since then, Antcliff has been charged in Benzie County with fraud and has been ordered to pay back more than $37,000 by February 2024. He did a little jail time there for missing a court hearing. In Mason County, he got probation for trespassing. Two days after his Van Buren County sentencing, he was back in a Kent County courtroom, where he was ordered to stand trial for a deck job that wasn’t done.

In Van Buren County, he told the court that he “never intended for this to happen or for this to go this far.”

Trace Antcliff in the Van Buren County Courthouse on May 1, 2023.
Trace Antcliff in the Van Buren County Courthouse on May 1, 2023.

“I know I let you down and I apologize for that,” he told Sriver and Huys.

Judge Kathleen Brickley was not impressed.

“You came off arrogant and annoyed at your presentence interview,” she told Antcliff. “There’s a hint of blaming the victim (as if) somehow it’s their fault. You knew what you were doing.”

She put Antcliff on probation for three years. That requires him to get a job and pay back the rest of what he owes. But whatever job he gets, the court ordered, Antcliff can’t be in a position to handle anyone else’s money.