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Texan Sues Ford Dealer After Truck with Company Logo Used by Syrian Fighters

Texan Sues Ford Dealer After Truck with Company Logo Used by Syrian Fighters

How did the truck get to Syria to begin with?

What would you do if your old truck adorned with your business name and phone number became part of a viral photo? Assumed to be a “terrorist sympathizer” by many viewing the photo, this Texan plumber sued the dealership.

The Washington Post reported:

Underneath this large lettering was an equally clear label of the company’s phone number — a number that, after the photo went viral within days of posting, began ringing nonstop.

On the other end of these mostly caustic calls was Mark Oberholtzer, owner of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, whose reputation rapidly went from small-business owner to terrorist sympathizer. He wasn’t the latter, of course, but the widely shared picture of his old truck spoke louder than his plaintive explanations.

“How it ended up in Syria, I’ll never know,” Oberholtzer told the Galveston County Daily News at the time. “I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth.”

According to the complaint filed, Oberholtzer began removing the decal from his truck when the salesman at the dealership warned doing so might damage the finish. The salesman said the dealership would take care of removing the decal.

The black Ford F-250 started life as a truck for a Texas-based plumbing company, carrying toilets, pipes and other supplies. But then it was sold to a Ford dealership in Houston, and after that, shepherded off to parts unknown. Until, that is, it appeared as the focal point of a tweet from a supposed extremist last December.

The photo indicated that the truck no longer carried ceramic parts; emerging from its cargo bed were a black-cloaked figure and an antiaircraft gun. According to the tweet, the truck was being used by Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (the “Muhajireen Brigade”), an extremist group fighting the Syrian government.

Yet even with its function entirely transformed, the truck still bore the insignia of its past life, a decal that clearly read: “Mark-1 Plumbing.”

Underneath this large lettering was an equally clear label of the company’s phone number — a number that, after the photo went viral within days of posting, began ringing nonstop.

On the other end of these mostly caustic calls was Mark Oberholtzer, owner of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, whose reputation rapidly went from small-business owner to terrorist sympathizer. He wasn’t the latter, of course, but the widely shared picture of his old truck spoke louder than his plaintive explanations.

“How it ended up in Syria, I’ll never know,” Oberholtzer told the Galveston County Daily News at the time. “I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth.”

[Plumber gets threats after old truck, complete with logo, shows up with Syria jihadists]

Now Oberholtzer has filed a lawsuit against AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway, the Houston dealership where he traded in the truck. According to the complaint filed last week, AutoNation misrepresented its intentions to remove the decal, causing Oberholtzer, his business and his family “severe harm.”

AutoNation did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment Sunday evening. According to Courthouse News, the dealership’s sales manager did not respond to a phone message placed last week.

A spokesman for the company told the Huffington Post last December that “AutoNation was nothing but the pass-through for this vehicle” and had no involvement in its eventual arrival in the hands of Islamist militants.

The lawsuit claims that Oberholtzer started to peel the “Mark-1 Plumbing” decal off when a salesman told him that doing so would blemish the paint on the vehicle. The salesman, Edgar Velasquez, allegedly assured Oberholtzer that the dealership would remove the decal.

The complaint says that neither Velasquez nor any other employee told Oberholtzer that the decals would remain on the truck.

The tweet ended up on Colbert, Oberholtzer’s phone was ringing off the hook, and all because the poor guy traded in a truck.

As the Washington Post points out, thought Oberholtzer’s misfortune is just that, the bigger question here is how the hell the truck wound up in Syria.

An AutoNation spokesman told the Huffington Post that after Oberholtzer’s trade-in in October 2013, the vehicle was immediately sent to an auction house, which then sold it to a local used-car dealer. According to the lawsuit, a vehicle history report says the truck was imported at Mersin, Turkey, on Dec. 18, 2013.

The damaging tweet was sent out almost exactly a year later.

Oberholtzer’s Ford isn’t the only car that has been repurposed for use by extremists. The Islamic State is known for featuring Toyota trucks and SUVs in its graphic propaganda videos, prompting the U.S. government to ask the Japanese automaker why so many of its products have landed in the militant group’s clutches.

“How could these brand-new trucks … these four-wheel drives, hundreds of them — where are they coming from?” asked Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily in an interview with ABC News.

Toyota distributors in the region told ABC that they did not know how their vehicles reached the Islamic State.

There’s another lesson here — save yourself the hassle and drive Chevrolets. I kid. Sort of.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye

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Comments

“There’s another lesson here — save yourself the hassle and drive Chevrolets.”

Bite your (figurative) tongue. NO Government Motors products for me.

Bigger lesson…NEVER leave your adverts on vehicles you get rid of. As this shows, you never know where in the world they’ll wind up, or put to what use.

And DON’T trust car dealers. At. All.

    Bigger lesson…NEVER leave your adverts on vehicles you get rid of. As this shows, you never know where in the world they’ll wind up, or put to what use.

    That would just seem to be common sense. If you value the name of your company, you don’t let branded things like this go outside of your control. Even if it hadn’t ended up in Syria, do you want a car or truck proudly emblazoned with your company name and number ending up on the news as the vehicle driven by a drunk driver who plowed into a schoolbus? Or being used by a pimp or drug dealer? Or being used in a smash & grab, or any number of less-than-admirable uses which will win you lots of bad publicity?

    What a deeply stupid thing to do.

      Milhouse in reply to Amy in FL. | December 16, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      Which is why he began removing the decal, until the dealer’s representative told him not to, and undertook to have it done professionally. Why do you think he was stupid to rely on that commitment?

save yourself the hassle and drive Chevrolets

yup that way they’ll be in at the dealer often enough for the decal to rot off 🙂
heck even changing headlight on ew denali type platform involves bumper/valence work now.

    Had to take off the grille in my 2005 Trailblazer to replace the headlights. Wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Maybe 15 minutes from start to finish.
    Compare that to a 2015 Ford F150.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRMbelDfEAA

    Haven’t had to change anything out on my new 2015 Canyon which has performed flawlessly, but not looking forward to the day it needs to be done either.

I can’t imagine selling a vehicle with my company markings intact. Especially to a dealership.

As for the Toyota trucks.. the white Toyota pickup is ubiquitous in the Middle East and Africa. You can’t throw a rock without hitting one. It’s been that way for decades and it predates ISIS and Al Qaeda.

    gwsjr425 in reply to Sanddog. | December 16, 2015 at 7:34 am

    I often joke about my Toyota pick up. Its 16 years old and runs as good as the day I got it 14 years ago. When asked why I don’t trade it in or get a new one I always tell them that I will drive it until the wheels fall off, if its good enough for terrorists, its good enough for me. Now all I need to to is find out what dealer sells the anti aircraft guns.

All Isis vehicles should have telephone number (202)456-1111 across the door to make it easier for Islamic terrorists to reach headquarters.

C’mon guys. Obama’s plan, as he alluded to in his perfunctory foreign policy side show at the Pentagon, is to feed ISIS/ISIL with used CO2 producing trucks that will generate a climate change cloud over them and swallow them up whole. This was all thought out ahead of time by professor O.

buckeyeminuteman | December 15, 2015 at 1:42 pm

The only plumbing these hajis know is their left hand…

This guy failed to take his adverts off his truck when he sold it, and he’s suing the dealer? Unless he also paid the dealer to remove the decal, I think all a jury is going to do is laugh at him.

I would make use of the publicity.

    Milhouse in reply to Valerie. | December 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    The defendant expressly undertook to remove the decal, the plaintiff relied on that undertaking, but the defendant negligently failed to do so, resulting in significant damage to the plaintiff.

I have to admit that having a truck outfitted like that would sure cut down on the asshole tailgating drivers around here.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Anchovy. | December 15, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    I don’t usually have gun rights stickers on my car (I think having them is generally not smart and I don’t have too many coherent thoughts that fit on a bumper sticker), but after Sandy Hook, when gun restrictions were in the air, I put a sticker in my back window – a photo of my AR-10 (a POF P308, nicely isolated on a white background), with the words “Come And Take It.”

    I was amused to observe tailgater after tailgater pull up close to my rear and then notice the sticker (the facial expressions told me they had seen it), at which time they would immediately back off!

I don’t know how good this guy’s chances are. His entire case hinges on an alleged verbal promise from a salesman that they would remove the decal.

Obviously his business is ruined but I don’t think he’s going to have much luck with this lawsuit.

    Milhouse in reply to Olinser. | December 15, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    His entire case hinges on an alleged verbal promise from a salesman

    There’s the rub, of course. If the salesman denies under oath that he said this, the jury will have to decide whom to believe, and I imagine it would be difficult to find a lawyer willing to take such a case without being paid cash in advance.

      “If the salesman denies under oath that he said this, the jury will have to decide whom to believe…”?

      Who to believe, between a local small plumbing business owner, or a used car salesman?

      No brainer, there.

The Islamic State is known for featuring Toyota trucks and SUVs in its graphic propaganda videos, prompting the U.S. government to ask the Japanese automaker why so many of its products have landed in the militant group’s clutches.

This is nothing new. The truck even has a war named after it: the so-called “Toyota War” between Libya and Chad in the 1980s was dominated by fighters using the light, mobile Hilux. … “With its combination of reliability, affordability, ubiquity and capability, the bare-bones truck has been a favorite with rebel groups of various nationalities since it first hit the scene in the late ’60s. In the more than 40 years since, the Hilux has shown up in conflicts from Nicaragua, Rwanda, Somalia and Ethopia to Pakistan and Iraq. If you’re looking for the automotive equivalent of the AK-47, you’ve found it.

How did the truck get into the hands of Islamic extremists? I blame the American Automobile Association. If it weren’t for those car nuts’ evil influence on Congress, we’d have the “common sense” car laws necessary to keep vehicles out of the hands of criminals and off our streets. Write your Congress critter today and ask him or her to make owning and selling a car as difficult as owning and selling a gun. Driving is a privilege, after all, and no car owner should be presumed to have no criminal intent. Cars are just evil all by themselves, anyway.

Proof that the “let’s regulate guns the way they regulate cars” crowd might have more to their argument than meets the eye.

What State Dept. official gave the go-ahead for this international export/transfer?

Was it the same office who OK’d “Operation Fast & Furious”?

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