An owner of a plumbing company in Texas has sued a Ford dealership for over one million dollers after Islamic State (IS) militants were seen using his old truck, thousands of kilometres away in war-torn Syria.
Mark Oberholtzer, owner of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City 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.”
“By the end of the day, Mark-1’s office, Mark-1’s business phone, and Mark’s personal cell had received over 1,000 phone calls from around the nation,” Oberholzer’s lawyer wrote in the lawsuit, filed December 9 in Harris County.
A photo of the black Ford F-250 truck, with his Mark-1 Plumbing decals still attached, went viral, leading to thousands of harassing phone calls.
The photo showed a black-cloaked figure and an antiaircraft gun. The truck was being used by Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (the “Muhajireen Brigade”), an extremist group fighting the Syrian government.
Oberholtzer said this would not have happened if the firm had just removed the decals before the truck was resold. In October 2013, Oberholtzer took the truck to AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway in Houston for a trade-in.
He got a 2012 Ford F-250 and said goodbye to his old truck, according to the lawsuit. He started to peel off the company’s decals from the truck’s doors but a salesman stopped him. The man told Oberholtzer that peeling off the decal would damage the paint on the truck, according to the lawsuit.
Oberholtzer said the salesman told him that AutoNation would remove the decals before the truck was resold. The truck was auctioned off in November 2013. The next month, it was shipped from Houston to Mersin, Turkey. About a year later, the truck popped up in a tweet posted by Caleb Weiss, a contributor to the Long War Journal.
It showed militants firing a heavy weapon from the bed of a truck with the Mark-1 company name on the front door. Oberholtzer had to temporarily shut down his business and leave town, according to the lawsuit, resulting in financial losses.
He also had visits from Homeland Security and the FBI.
He now carries a gun for protection, the lawsuit says. The issue of Western vehicles flowing into the Middle East and into the hands of militants has attracted attention of authorities.
For instance, the treasury department recently asked Japanese auto giant Toyota how so many of its vehicles have wound up in militant hands.