Back in 2015, a regular guy named Mark Oberholtzer sold his 2005 Ford F-250 truck to a dealership in Texas. As he waited for the paperwork, he started scraping the name of his company off the side of the pickup truck. A salesman assured him that the dealership would remove the decal later. Oberholtzer collected his paperwork and left the dealership.
The traveling Ford F-250 pickup truck from Texas
According to CNN, Oberholtzer took the Ford F-250 truck to AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway in Houston back in 2013. He traded the 2005 Ford F-250 in for a new 2012 Ford F-250 and tried to remove the decal, but a sales associate said he did not need to. Oberholtzer went home with his new truck and thought nothing of it. According to documents, AutoNation sold the Ford truck at auction in November 2013. The pickup truck traveled from Houston, Texas, to Mersin, Turkey.
Later in 2014, a journalist for the Long War Journal posted the tweet above. It showed people firing a weapon out of the back of Mark Oberholtzer’s Ford F-250. The Tweet read, “Chechen Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar using plumbing truck against regime in #Aleppo.” It showed the Mark-1 Plumbing decal on the truck and a local Houston phone number in all the truck’s glory.
The photo went viral after that, and the calls started pouring in for Oberholtzer. His business phone and personal line starting blowing up with threatening phone calls at all hours of the night. The court documents claim that people were “irate and yelling expletives at whoever answered the phone.” In addition, people were “singing in Arabic for the duration of the phone call or voice message recording” and “making threats of injury or death.”
Mark sued AutoNation over his Ford F-250
Oberholtzer filed a lawsuit against AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway for negligence, fraud, libel per se, invasion of privacy. The lawsuit told the same story as above. “At no time did Velasquez or any other agent, servant, or employee of the Defendant tell Plaintiff (Oberholtzer) that Defendant would leave the decals on the truck, which would be transferred in some fashion to international jihadists conducting welfare upon innocents in Syria.”
The long and short of the lawsuit is that if AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway had removed the decals on the Ford F-250, none of this would have happened. It isn’t clear how the truck ended up traveling from Texas to Syria. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security went to Oberholtzer’s office to speak with him. The Homeland Security Agents spoke with Oberholtzer for about an hour.
The story of Mark Oberholtzer and AutoNation is a strange one
The Ford F-250 truck continued to appear in coverage during the war. It even showed up in propaganda videos put on the internet. Oberholtzer continued to get calls for years and did not change his phone number. In 2017, the parties settled the lawsuit out of court. It is an unusual case indeed. By most standards, the usual practice is to remove the decals on any vehicle before reselling it.
Perhaps the moral of this story is to always remove personal decals on vehicles before selling the cars. If you happen to own a Ford F-250, definitely remove the decals before selling the truck to AutoNation.