A Houston-area plumber is suing a Texas Ford dealer for ruining his life after his truck, with his business' name still emblazoned on it, surfaced in Syria after being resold by the dealer and was pictured, decal and all, in a propaganda film purportedly issued by the jihadi group Ansar al-Deen while engaged in battle in the Aleppo area.
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As reported by the U.S. legal website Courthouse News Service, the plumber, Mark Oberholtzer of Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, traded in his truck in 2013 for a newer model at AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway. Oberholtzer alleges in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday against the dealer that as he was waiting for the deal to be finalized, he attempted to peel off his company's decal, but was asked to stop by a salesman who told him it would damage the paint. They would remove it at the dealership, the salesman assured him, Oberholtzer alleges in the lawsuit.
Oberholtzer alleges that when he contacted the Ford dealer, he was told the truck had not been altered. A vehicle history report on the vehicle is said to show it was auctioned off in Texas in November 2013 and then shipped from Houston to Turkey.
A year ago, according to the suit, his secretary informed him that Ansar al-Deen had tweeted a propaganda photograph with a caption "using plumbing truck against regime in #Aleppo," featuring the Oberholtzer's plumbing business log and phone number.
"By the end of the day, Mark-1's office, Mark-1's business phone, and Mark's personal cellphone had received over 1,000 phone calls from the around the nation. These phone calls were in large part harassing and contained countless threats of violence, property harm, injury and even death," the lawsuit states, according to Courthouse News. According to the plumber, his secretary was afraid to go to the office, and he was forced to flee to another town evade the hostile response.
Although a year has passed, Oberholtzer alleges that he is still receiving threating calls over the matter.
"Besides the constant requests for interviews, from USA Today, CBS, NBC and 'Inside Edition' among others, he got visits from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, whose agents told him 'there are crazy people out there' and to 'protect himself' so he started packing a gun," Courthouse News reported.
In his suit, he is seeking more than $1 million in punitive damages from the dealer for fraud, gross negligence, negligent misrepresentation, defamation, invasion of privacy and deceptive trade, Courthouse News reported.