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Hickman Counters Counts

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NORTH LITTLE ROCK -

A North Little Rock man with long term plans to open a restaurant has some problems in his immediate future to deal with first.

Almost two years ago when we were getting complaints about Gene Hickman and his portable building business in Cabot, we went looking for him and failed to find him.

But after a former friend and boss accused him of stealing last week, Hickman found us.

"He's a pathological liar," says Gene Hickman about Bill Counts.

Hickman isn't holding back in describing Counts, a man he says he has known for 45 years. A man he says taught him how to fish.

And Counts didn't hold back when testifying before a state board last week.

Counts told the board that while he was out on medical leave Hickman stole up to $250,000 and kept him in the dark about the financial health of Air One, his Sherwood business.

"I met Bill Counts every day," counters Hickman. "At his house...giving him lawsuits...from the banks. Giving him certified letters. Giving him messages to return phone calls. If I didn't meet him there I met him at a pizza place where he drank beer all night."

Hickman has plans to serve beer too...when he reopens Sir Loins Inn.

Closed for nearly a decade, he is looking for financial backing to help reopen the North Little Rock landmark restaurant that he now owns.

"The restaurant will open," assures Hickman. "I'm giving it 99.9 percent. I'll find somebody. I mean...I don't quit. I'm determined."

But first Hickman will have to beat some criminal charges hanging over his head in Lonoke County.

And he'll have to convince possible investors that he is telling the truth and not Bill Counts.

"I know he'll be watching this," says Hickman referring to Counts. "And I hope he seeks God and asks for forgiveness. And I hope he sees a psychiatrist."

Hickman has a pretrial hearing this Friday on the three dozen theft of property counts he faces relating to his failed Cabot business. The trial is scheduled for August 20th.

He says he is not guilty and expects to beat the charges.

Air date: July 17th, 2013