This is just all sorts of bad news. A Texas plumber is suing a Ford dealer for $1 million dollars after his truck trade-in ended up in the hands of the extremist terrorist group ISIS, with his company’s logo still on it.
The problem is that the dealer never took his company’s decal off of it, as promised. It made its way to the mideast and a picture of it turned up online. Not only did it have the Mark-1 Plumbing name and phone number still on it. But it was also now equipped with an anti-aircraft gun. The photo immediately went viral.
What followed isn’t pretty. Texas City plumber Mark OberHoltzer received hundreds of threatening phone calls that left him fearing for both his life and that of his family and employees.
So how did this happen? Well, Oberhotlzaer’s lawsuit filed on December 9 claims he traded his 2005 F-250 for a new truck at AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway in 2013. Oberholtzer says he tried to take his company’s decal off at the dealership, but a worker told him not to because it would damage the paint. He says someone assured him they’d take care it.
According to the court documents, the truck was sold later that year in a dealer auction. Eventually, it was transferred to Mersin, Turkey where it ended up with ISIS. With the decal still on it. In 2014, a man named Caleb Weiss tweeted a photo of the truck, still emblazoned with the plumbing decal. Only it also now had an anti-aircraft gun.
The photo immediately went viral. The plumber’s office received more than 1,000 phone calls the next day alone. The steady stream of callers made threats to Overholtzer’s employees, his family, even his grandchildren “in violent lurid and grossly specific terms” that promised violence, injury and even death. Things got so bad, Oberholtzer shut down his business for more than a week and even left town for a while. The lawsuit documents that he later received visits from FBI and Homeland Security agents who told him to protect himself at all times because “there are crazy people out there.” Oberholtzer says his family was terrified and he bought a gun for protection.
Thing got even worse, however. The photo wound up on a segment called “Texan’s Truck in Syria” on “The Colbert Report”. It was also posted on Comedy Central’s website. If you can imagine this, the same clip was later used on The Emmy Awards when “The Colbert Report” was nominated for an honor. The lawsuit estimates that upwards of 15 million people were exposed to the photo.
His lawyers say the whole ordeal destroyed Oberholtzer’s reputation, along with his company and sent him into a state of “shock, fear, anxiety, mental anguish, humiliation and degradation.”
Oberholtzer complained to the dealer when the whole thing started and was told by an employee who hung up on him that it was not the company’s responsibility. That was this dealer’s second mistake. NEVER blow off a customer.
So Oberholtzer took his complaint to court and he is asking for $1 million in damages.
According to a news report, AutoNation is investigating how this could have happened.
“We immediately sent the vehicle to auction, and the understanding was that the markings would come off the vehicle,” says AutoNation Chief Marketing Officer Marc Cannon said. “I’m not sure where the breakdown was between AutoNation and the auction. It’s an unfortunate situation.”
When it all first started, he told The Daily News in Galveston County that all he wanted was for the public to know that the truck no longer belonged to him.
“I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth,” he said.
Now, the lawsuit brings it back into the news again, to a whole host of people who may have not seen the photo before. We can only hope he’s changed his number.