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Aug. 25, 2011

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The case of the bizarre lawsuit against painter and former SpongeBob cartoonist Todd White just keeps getting weirder. First we learned last week that the owner of The Gallery HB in Huntington Beach, Calif., Margaret Howell, filed a lawsuit against White for allegedly hiring a band of thugs to beat her up, force her to turn over her client list and steal works of art. Howell claims that White wanted to seize control of her gallery so he could eliminate her commission and reap a higher profit.

Now, White has come back with a suit of his own. According to his complaint, filed today, Howell made and sold dozens of unauthorized copies of his works, changed edition numbers, signed his name and added remarques to paintings. White estimates that she made anywhere from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the scam. White is seeking $5 million in damages.

On Aug. 2, 2011, the night of the incident in question, Howell signed a settlement with White agreeing to return to him all of the artwork he had sold to her, all reproductions and all rights. Howell has since said, in her suit, that she only signed because she was intimidated by the artist’s “representatives.” White’s complaint acknowledges that they confronted Howell at her gallery, but that she readily admitted to copying works and they obtained “undeniable evidence establishing her guilt” under no duress.

White is asking the court to uphold the settlement. In the court papers, he cites testimony from Howell’s top salesman and her clients as evidence that is part of an ongoing investigation. “Because Howell has been less than forthcoming about what she did and the length of time over which she did it,” wrote White’s attorney, Paul Berra, ”White and his representatives have not yet uncovered the full extent of her wrongful conduct. When they do, plaintiffs will amend this complaint.”

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