Bill Blackwell

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Beltrami County officials on Wednesday, March 4, announced theft charges against William Blackwell Jr. of Bemidji for actions during his tenure as treasurer of the Minnesota Indian Education Association. Blackwell is also the former director of the American Indian Resource Center at BSU, a position he resigned from in August 2019

Beltrami County Attorney David Hanson issued a release Wednesday, saying Blackwell may have embezzled as much as $140,000 from the MIEA while he was treasurer from December 2016 to June 2019.

The Bemidji Police Department started its investigation on Sept. 5 after being contacted by officials from the MIEA.

Blackwell is being charged with a single count of theft and embezzlement of public funds for a scheme involving nearly $140,000 of fraudulent payments to himself, the release said. The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and/or $100,000.

Police investigators were able to examine records from the MIEA that indicated Blackwell would frequently make withdrawals 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, the release said.

Support Independent Indigenous Journalism

Native News Online is an independent, Indigenous-led newsroom with a crucial mission:  We want to change the narrative about Indian Country. We do this by producing intelligent, fact-based journalism that tells the full story from all corners of Indian Country.  We pride ourselves on covering the tribes you may have never heard of before and by respecting and listening to the communities we serve through our reporting. As newsrooms across the country continue to shrink, coverage of Indian Country is more important than ever, and we are committed to filling this ever-present hole in journalism.

Because we believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities, the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount, big or small, gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. 
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Author: Red Lake Nation News