If you’re traveling down the highways of America with your business’ contact information proudly plastered across the side of your vehicle, you have to be on the lookout for prank phone calls and dummy email messages. And maybe something a little more nefarious, like the Islamic State acquiring your vehicle and then using it for military operations—with your phone number still displayed on the side of the truck.
That’s why, as reported by CNN, Mark Oberholtzer of Texas City, Texas, is suing the Houston car dealership where he traded in his Ford F-250 in 213 for $1 million: he later discovered it was being used by the jihadist group ISIS, and was routinely appearing in their social media images.
And how did Oberholtzer discover this disconcerting fact? The advertisement decals for his plumbing business were never removed from the truck. And the photo in the tweet below was shared over and over again online (and was featured on the Colbert Report last year), leading to plenty of threatening phone calls to Oberholtzer’s Mark-1 plumbing business.
Here’s the original tweet.
— Caleb Weiss (@Weissenberg7) December 15, 2014
The photo went viral, was picked up by news outlets and led to thousands of phone calls to Oberholtzer’s business and personal phones, according to the lawsuit.
Most of the calls were harassing and threatened violence and included the “yelling (of) expletives at whomever answered the phone,” the “singing in Arabic for the duration of the phone call” and “threats of injury or death” made against Oberholtzer’s family and employees.
Oberholtzer had to temporarily shut down his business and leave town, according to the lawsuit, resulting in financial losses. He’s also had visits from Homeland Security and the FBI.
Even a year later, Oberholtzer, who carries a gun for his protection, said he still receives harassing phone calls because of the ad on his old truck.
Oberholtzer had traded in the old truck to a Houston car dealership and received a 2012 Ford F-250 in return. Before he left, he began pulling off his Mark-1 business decals. But according to Oberholtzer’s lawsuit, a salesman stopped him, saying he would damage the paint. Oberholtzer said he was told the dealership would get rid of the decals.
The lawsuit further claims that the truck was sold in an auction in November 2013, and in December, it was shipped to Mersin, Turkey. From there, it somehow ended up in the hands of ISIS.
And while this is a terrible advertisement for Oberholtzer’s business, perhaps it’s not such a bad product placement for Ford.
I am a Ford F150 owner. I am impressed with this truck's performance in Syria. Al Nusrah got itself a workhorse. pic.twitter.com/orJyslo2UC
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) April 26, 2015