CULTURE & ARTS
08/18/2011 01:19 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2011

Spongebob Designer And 'Martial Artists' Accused Of Intimidating Gallerist

A Los Angeles gallerist filed suit last week against Todd White, former lead artist for "SpongeBob Squarepants," whom she claims entered her gallery with at least four men and forced her to sign an agreement to return the artist's work back to him. Courthouse News quotes her complaint, which states that "The other men were 'hired muscles,' martial arts experts retained by White or his representatives, whose purpose was to physically assault and intimidate Ms. Howell."

White's manager has denied the charges, insisting that the gallerist, Margaret Howell, had been defrauding White and other artists, and that the meeting with Howell was an attempt to settle the fraud accusations. The Art Newspaper spoke to Bryce Eddy, White's manager, and reports that "The men came to the studio to reach a confidential settlement that would have Howell give up the art in exchange for White dropping his fraud and copyright infringement claims."

In response, White's lawyer told the New York Times, White "intends to sue Ms. Howell for malicious prosecution and refer this matter to the appropriate district attorney’s office.”

White and his associates removed works estimated at around $1 million, according to the Art Newspaper, and later faxed a letter signed by Howell to her landlord, stating that Howell would soon vacate her lease and assign the gallery to White. According to Howell's lawyer, Jonathan Jenkins, "Ms. Howell never authorized such letter, and signed it only out of fear for her life."

White and Howell have not personally commented on the dispute, but a banner on the gallery's website states, "We are moving on and are now OUT OF WHITE!"