Merl William Hickman Sr., the Shawnee man convicted in 2004 of bilking more than $8 million from 160 area investors, is currently serving a 160-year prison term but is scheduled to go before the Pardon and Parole Board on June 12.

Merl William Hickman Sr., the Shawnee man convicted in 2004 of bilking more than $8 million from 160 area investors, is currently serving a 160-year prison term but is scheduled to go before the Pardon and Parole Board on June 12.

Hickman, 68, is seeking commutation of the 160-year state prison sentence that he began serving in 2012. His case passed through the first of two stages in that process.

“I'm furious that Merl Hickman, who was sentenced to 160 years, now thinks he can quietly petition the Governor to be released and go free,” District Attorney Richard Smothermon said Friday. “He is once again proving that he has no conscience and cares nothing about the 160 lives he destroyed.”

Smothermon, who originally prosecuted this case, said he knows the devastation Hickman caused to the victims and therefore has the knowledge to fight this request.

Smothermon said a victim who lost retirement funds in the Ponzi scheme also plans to protest.

“Every victim has a right to be heard,” he said.

Hickman was originally charged in Pottawatomie County District Court in February 2004 with 444 felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses in a confidence game. He pleaded guilty to 16 of those counts in December 2004 and was sentenced to 10 years in each count, for a total of 160 years.

After completing an eight-year federal prison term in connection with this case, Hickman began serving the 160-year state prison term in 2012.

At that time, Smothermon said the 160 years was symbolic for the 160 victims.

Smothermon said his goal — and his promise — to the scammed investors was Hickman would spend the rest of his life behind bars. Hickman, who was 55 at sentencing, is now 68.

As part of the case, Hickman’s son, Merl William “Billy” Hickman Jr., received a five-year term with the federal Bureau of Prisons and was released in 2009 after completing his time.

The Hickman case first began to unfold Dec. 17, 2003, when state officials shut down The Hickman Agency in Shawnee and seized assets. The Ponzi scheme scam was exposed, leaving many to lose their life savings or retirement funds.

As part of the Ponzi scheme, investors were promised returns up to 20 percent, but no money was ever invested. Instead, funds from later investors were used to pay off earlier investors.

Prosecutors allege the rest was spent to fund a lavish lifestyle of boats, cars, trips and jewelry.

A court-appointed receiver was appointed to recoup investor money by selling off boats, cars, jewelry, property and other items confiscated from Hickman. Most of the investors received little if any money back, and any refunds were estimated to be pennies on the dollar.

Over the years, many of the investors impacted by this Ponzi scheme have said Hickman stole their trust and sense of security. Many have since tried to recover from the monetary loss, including retirees who lost their retirement funds and had to return to work to make ends meet.