TEXAS CITY — A local plumber was flooded with phone calls — some threatening — after a picture of one of his old company vehicles being used by Islamist militants in Syria was posted on Twitter.
The picture was posted online by the Islamic extremist brigade Ansar al-Deen Front, according to a CBS News report. It shows a black pickup truck with a Mark-1 Plumbing decal on the door and an anti-aircraft gun in the bed.
Mark Oberholtzer, who has owned and operated Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City for the past 32 years, confirmed it was his pickup truck in the picture. He said he no longer owned the vehicle and had no idea how it ended up in Syria.
Oberholtzer said he traded in the truck to an AutoNation dealership three years ago. He usually takes the decals off his vehicles when he sells them, but he left it on this truck with the expectation that AutoNation would remove it.
“They were supposed to have done it and it looks like they didn’t do it,” Oberholtzer said. “How it ended up in Syria, I’ll never know.”
A spokesperson for AutoNation said the company passed Oberholtzer’s vehicle on to Adesa Auto Auction. The auction company took title of the vehicle, Marc Cannon, a spokesperson for AutoNation, said.
“We were nothing but the pass-through,” Cannon said.
If the vehicle had been intended to be part of AutoNation’s inventory, the company would have stripped any decals or signs off it, he said. But when a vehicle is passed on to a wholesaler it is their responsibility — or the future buyer — to clean the vehicle of signs, he said.
A representative with Adesa Auto Auction did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Oberholtzer began receiving calls about the truck and the picture on Monday afternoon, he said. He said his business had received a thousand calls and faxes about the image on Tuesday.
“A few of the people are really ugly,” he said.
By Tuesday afternoon Oberholtzer said federal Homeland Security officials had arrived at his business and were questioning his staff.
Oberholtzer said he didn’t know what to do about all the attention he was getting from the picture. He just wanted the public to know that the vehicle was no longer his.
“I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth,” he said.