Spongebob Squarepants Art Theft Caper Rocks Huntington Beach

Artist Todd White is famous for designing characters who live in a pineapple under the sea. But did he also design an elaborate kidnap and art theft caper in Huntington Beach? Gallerist Margaret Howell has filed a $7.5 million lawsuit accusing "agents of Mr. White" of imprisoning and assaulting her for several hours, stealing $1 million in artwork, forcing her into "reciting a rehearsed and scripted 'consent' into a voice recorder," and then defaming her to associates.

White, however, seems to think Howell is crazier than an anthropomorphic sponge with hyperthyroidism. The Times reports:

In an e-mail, a lawyer for Mr. White, Paul S. Berra, called the lawsuit "completely ridiculous." He said that Mr. White had caught Ms. Howell copying his artwork and that, upon being confronted, she agreed to return his work in exchange for not being sued. The encounter "is on tape, and Ms. Howell openly and repeatedly admits to engaging in fraud," Mr. Berra wrote, adding that Mr. White "intends to sue Ms. Howell for malicious prosecution and refer this matter to the appropriate district attorney's office."

Before filing the lawsuit, Howell reported the incident to law enforcement, but no charges were ever filed. [NYT, image via Nickolodeon]