A Houston auto dealership has been sued after international jihadists in Syria were allegedly seen with a Texas City plumber’s pickup truck, recent Harris County District Court records indicate.
Mark Oberholtzer, doing business as Mark-1 Plumbing, Inc., initiated legal action against Charlie Thomas Ford, Ltd., doing business as Autonation Ford Gulf Freeway, in the Harris County 113th District Court on Dec. 9. Oberholtzer’s lawsuit says the 2005 Ford F-250 bore his company decal though the defendant promised to remove it as part of a 2013 transaction.
Oberholtzer explains that he traded in the aforementioned truck for a newer vehicle at the dealership on Oct. 23, 2013. He was in the process of removing the decal when a salesman told him to let the defendant perform the removal instead.
The truck was then reportedly sold at an auto auction the next month and shipped from Houston to Mersin, Turkey.
According to the lawsuit, Caleb Weiss, a member of the Syria-based Ansar al-Deen jihadist group, Tweeted on Dec. 15, 2014, a propaganda image featuring the F-250 “with an anti-aircraft gun mounted on it” and the complainant’s logo and phone number “still on the door.”
“Within 48 hours, the photograph had gone viral via the Internet and multiple news outlets,” the suit says.
Oberholtzer was traveling to Corpus Christi when his secretary called him about the image to “his shock and utter disbelief.”
Court documents assert the picture placed the plaintiff and his office on the receiving end of harassing and threatening phone calls, stating said calls forced his business to temporarily shut down and suffer lost revenues.
The ordeal, the original petition further claims, brought forth a media blitz that culminated in Comedy Central’s now-defunct The Colbert Report doing a widely watched segment on the truck. Oberholtzer and his family purportedly continue to be harassed and threatened though more than a year has passed since the initial news story broke.
“Though absolutely no fault of their own, the plaintiff has suffered and continue to suffer damages directly resulting from the defendant’s failure to remove the decal prior to resale as promised,” the suit says.
Consequently, Oberholtzer seeks more than $1 million in damages and a jury trial.
He is represented by attorneys A. Craig Eiland and Austin Martin of The Law Offices of A. Craig Eiland in Galveston.
Harris County 113th District Court Case No. 2015-73882