Update on the he-said-she-said art heist
I got a hold of Howell last night at her gallery. She asked me to wait a few minutes while she was closing a purchase and making friendly conversation. She was polite and easy to chat with. After a few minutes of talking about this and that, we got to business where I heard the facts straight from the source.
In case you haven’t kept updated on the Todd White and Gallery HB saga, here is the quick and dirty from my last story on this. Peggy Howell alleges that on August 2, Todd White and four men, of whom some are yet to be publicly identified, took over her place of business by force, intimidated and abused her, kidnapped her and forced their way into her home.
And while they were busy doing this, Howell said that they stole all the Todd White art in her possession. Jenkins writes that it was one of the largest art heists in Orange County history, according to Matt Coker at OCweekly. Howell filed a civil law suit on August 12 for robbery, assault, intimidation, kidnapping, collusion, interference with business practice and many more: sixteen total to be exact. I thoroughly enjoyed being reminded by Howell herself that OJ Simpson did something similar and is now serving 30 something years.
On August 26th, Todd White sued back for copyright infringement. However, Howell said that between the 12th and the 26th, it appears that the “Art of White” struggled to find something to sue her for. She said that they first declared they were suing for malicious intent and then they said it was fraud. After telling the press two different things, they settled on a civil suit against her for copyright infringement, Howell said.
And that’s when Howell decided to file a class action suit. “We have come to discover that up to eight people were hired by the Art of White to embellish and number the pieces. We … claim, that hundreds if not thousands of Todd White’s signed and numbered prints may or may not be authentic reproductions. Because several people have come forward and admitted that they themselves signed or embellished prints, we allege that from 2005 to 2007, several thousand images that White claimed he signed and embellished, he didn’t even touch,” said Howell.
Howell is asking for another $5 million on behalf of the art galleries and individuals who bought inauthentic Todd White reproductions.
And to make this all more enjoyable, here’s some extra tit for tat. Howell said that she found Pete when he was working at some shop making minimum wage. She hired him to work at the Gallery HB and he became a great sales guy, that is until he left to go work for White. Howell alleges that Pete copied Gallery HB files while he worked for her and that her lawyer has forensic evidence that on June 14th and 15th, he deleted all Todd White emails to the Gallery HB. “We are still questioning how he got all the names, numbers and addresses of Gallery HB clients. One of my clients, upon receiving a call from Pete about his White pieces possibly being fraudulent, asked how he got his personal information and what business was it of his?” said Howell. And thus, their saga continues.
In the meantime, I’m curious. Computer fraud can involve being put away for some time… Why didn’t Howell take the problem straight to the police back in June? And why didn’t White sue Howell for copyright infringement in August instead of (allegedly, of course) showing up at her gallery with his boys and taking her stuff?