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Mistaken Identity: Kentwood Man Ordered To Pay $10,000 Without Warning

Posted at 6:43 PM, Apr 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-29 23:30:32-04

KENTWOOD, Mich.  (April 29, 2014)– Last summer a deputy showed up at Margaret and Jeffery TenElshof’s home in Kentwood with an ominous message.

A court had ordered their property to be seized in 30 days.

However, the couple had no idea why.

“We knew we were innocent,” said Margaret TenElshof.

The issue?  A case of mistaken identity.

Jeffery Senior’s estranged son,  Jeffery Junior of Jenison and his construction company, had been involved in a civil lawsuit with Koster Excavating out of Jenison.

The court ruled that Jeffery Junior had to pay for services given from the excavating company.

However, when a judgement was made to seize assets against Jeffery Junior, attorneys representing Koster Excavating from Detroit apparently came after Jeffery Senior’s assets as well.

“My husband was not served any papers.  So, we had no clue,” said Margaret TenElshof.

She said since they hadn’t talked to their son in years, they had no idea what was going on.

“We haven`t had contact with my oldest stepson in over three years,” said TenElshof.

However, the notice of judgement against both Jeffery Junior and Jeffery Senior physically listed their names above and below one another and totaled more than $10,000.

Margaret and her husband said they tried to explain the situation to the courts and Clark Hill PLC without luck.

Eventually, they had to hire an attorney of their own to clear Jeffery Senior’s name.

The couple estimates they spent more than $18,000.

“It was very stressful,” said Margaret.

The couple’s attorney, Arthur McWilliams Jr, pointed out to the courts and to the attorneys with Clark Hill PLC that Jeffery Senior was not part of his son’s construction company or the business deal in question.

He also said the couple had never been to the address where the court officer allegedly served the summons for the case, which was at their estranged son’s house in Jenison.

Also of interest, the person who allegedly served the summons on the couple was based in the Detroit area, not locally.

McWilliams wrote, “David Keene, who appears to be a court officer out of the 31st District Court, has filed a proof of service in this case that he served Jeffrey TenElshof ….Court Officer Keene also filed a proof of service that he served Scott TenElshof….my client assures me that he never received a summons.”

Cooley Law School experts explained that although people who serve subpoenas and summons are called “court officers” they don’t have to work near the court where the lawsuit is taking place.

Also, law experts say the only state requirement for holding the job of a “process server” is that you must be 18 years of age.

A couple months later, after incurring what Margaret estimated at $1835.00 in legal fees to clear their name, Judge Kenneth Post in Hudsonville issued an order clearing Jeff Sr., stating, “the case is dismissed with prejudice and without costs as it pertains to Jeffery TenElshof, Sr., born on September 27, 1961, only.”

“It was a relief because we were done, our name was not involved and it shouldn`t have been in the first place, but then the frustrating point came,” said TenElshof.

“Had my husband been served papers, he would have obliviously gone to clear his name and get his name taken off the record right away.”

We reached out to Clark Hill PLC to see if they could explain why Jeffery Senior wasn’t served a summons or complaint by the process server.

A marketing representative from the law firm representing Koster Excavating, Clark Hill PLC, said they can’t typically talk on behalf of their clients unless given permission.

They couldn’t comment as of 6:45 pm Tuesday evening.