Screenshot via KHOU
The black Ford F-250 started life as a truck for a Texas-based plumbing company, carrying pipes, toilets and other ilk. 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, according to a report in the Washington Post.
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 (or, the “Muhajireen Brigade”), an extremist group fighting against the Syrian government, according to the report.
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 which, after the photo went viral within days of posting — began ringing nonstop, according to the report.
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, according to the report.
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.”
An AutoNation spokesman told the Huffington Post that it was immediately sent to an auction house after Oberholtzer’s trade-in in October 2013, which then sold it to a local used car dealer. According to the lawsuit, a vehicle history report says that the truck was imported to Mersin, Turkey, on Dec. 18, 2013. The damaging tweet was sent out almost exactly a year later, according to the report.