BEMIDJI -- A Bemidji man pleaded guilty on Friday, May 29 to theft and embezzlement charges stemming from his tenure as treasurer of the Minnesota Indian Education Association.

William Blackwell Jr. was charged with one count of theft and embezzlement of public funds in March for a scheme involving nearly $140,000 of fraudulent payments to himself between December 2016 and June 2019. The Bemidji Police Department started its investigation on Sept. 5 after being contacted by officials from the MIEA.

Police investigators were able to examine records from the MIEA that indicated Blackwell would frequently make withdrawls in small amounts, however, the total theft discovered amounted to approximately $138,579. Ultimately, Blackwell was confronted about the theft and admitted to making frequent cash withdrawals; he estimated the total was up to $80,000, a release sent from the Beltrami County Attorney's Office said in March.

The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and/or $100,000.

Blackwell is also the former director of the American Indian Resource Center at BSU, a position he resigned from in August.