How a Small-Time Texan Plumber's Truck Ended Up in the Hands of Syrian Extremists
One year after a truck bearing the logo and contact information of a small plumbing business ended up in the hands of Islamic extremists -- after photos of the so-called ‘Muhajireen Brigade’ in Syria manning the vehicle blew up over social media -- Texas City, Texas, resident Mark Oberholtzer has filed a $1 million lawsuit for damages inflicted upon his business and family.
Oberholtzer, the owner of Mark-1 Plumbing -- a name that coincidentally alludes to a military vehicle -- is the victim of an unlikely series of events that represents any business owner’s worst nightmare. After trading in the vehicle at a local dealership, AutoNation Ford Gulf Freeway, Oberholtzer’s son began peeling the insignia off the vehicle, whereupon the dealer told him that they would have it taken care of so as not to ruin the paint job.
Evidently, they never did. The truck was subsequently sold to Turkey, according to The New York Post, before ending up in Syria, where it was modified to transport an antiaircraft gun in its flatbed.
During a hunting trip last year, when photos of the truck were initially posted to Twitter, hundreds of calls to Mark-1 began pouring in from around the world, with many accusing Oberholtzer of being a terrorist sympathizer. A segment on the Colbert Report garnered even wider attention, and Mark-1 staffers began to receive threatening calls as well.
“We had numerous death threats,” the 52-year-old told The Post. After the FBI warned him to protect himself, he began carrying a gun at all times. His business also began to suffer. Though old clients stuck by his side, Oberholtzer says he grappled to get new customers.
“Whenever ISIS commits an atrocity that is reported nationally, which occurs with distressing frequency,” according to the suit, “Plaintiffs receive more phone calls than normal all over again.”