- The Washington Times
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Texas plumber is suing a Ford dealership that he sold his company pickup truck to after the vehicle turned up in photos from the front lines of the Syrian civil war.

In December 2014, photos circulated by Syrian rebels on Twitter showed an armed rebel firing heavy artillery from the bed of the truck, which still had its original “Mark-1 Plumbing” decal fully intact with a phone number for the business.

Mark Oberholtzer, who owns Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, says he has endured threats, anxiety and a loss of business after the photos garnered national media attention, Mashable reported.

Mr. Oberholtzer had traded in his truck to a Houston dealership, AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway, the previous year and the dealership placed the truck up for auction.

According to the complaint, filed last week, a salesman at the dealership told Mr. Oberholtzer “not to worry about the decal” on the truck, saying that peeling it off would “blemish the vehicle paint,” Mashable reported.

At no time did anyone at the dealership tell Mr. Oberholtzer that the decal would be left on the truck, “which would be transferred in some fashion to international jihadists conducting warfare upon innocents in Syria,” the complaint reads.

It is not clear how the truck ended up in Syria. Mr. Oberholtzer’s suit claims the truck was auctioned in November 2013 and subsequently exported to Turkey, Mashable reported.

The photo of the truck that surfaced online was tweeted by an account associated with the Syria-based Jabhat Ansar al-Din group, an assembly of known militant factions that fight in the Aleppo region, Mashable reported. That account has since been suspended.

After the photo emerged, Mr. Oberholtzer said hundreds of phone calls — many of them threatening — began flooding his business, forcing him to disconnect his phone line. 

The photo was also widely circulated by the media, and even earned a segment on Stephen Colbert’s last episode of “The Colbert Report,” which boasted 2.5 million viewers. 

Mr. Oberholtzer said he had to close his business for a week and leave the area. In the complaint he alleged that he has anxiety after receiving the threats. 

He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in an “amount to be determined at trial.”

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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