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Former Bemidji Masonic Lodge treasurer pleads guilty to stealing money used to pay for girlfriend's expenses

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BEMIDJI - A former treasurer of the Bemidji Masonic Lodge pleaded guilty Tues-day to swindling more than $45,000 from the fraternal organization.

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Nathan Arlo Pochardt, 40, of Bemidji entered the plea in Beltrami County District Court to gross misdemeanor theft. Previously charged with a felony, Pochardt agreed to the amended charge after prosecutors consulted with Masonic Lodge officers.

Judge Shari Schluchter ordered Pochardt to immediately repay $45,555.48 to the Masonic Lodge. In addition, he was sentenced to one year in jail, with all but 30 days suspended for two years, and a $1,000 fine.

On Monday, a cashier's check on his behalf was deposited with court administration to satisfy restitution to Masonic Lodge No. 233.

According to court papers filed earlier this year, Po-chardt told police officers that he took thousands of dollars from the Lodge by writing checks to himself on Lodge accounts and making cash withdrawals from those accounts. He told a detective that the reason for the thefts was the disintegration of his marriage and significant expenditures for a girlfriend.

Pochardt, who served as Lodge treasurer for several years through 2011, came under suspicion after the head of the Lodge, or the worshipful master, noted Pochardt stopped attending meetings and presenting treasurer's reports, according to the complaint.

Read more Wednesday in the Pioneer.

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