FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — The former CEO of White Dairy, Inc., one of the oldest businesses in Van Buren, has pleaded guilty to falsifying his corporate and personal tax records in 2013.
Donald Tankersley, 76, waived indictment Thursday (Sept. 19) in U.S. District Court on two counts of making and subscribing a false tax return.
Tankersley faces up to six years in prison and a $200,000 fine. He’s free on a $50,000 bond.
A sentencing hearing hasn’t been set.
Prosecutors said Tankersley “siphoned funds” from White Dairy by making checks out to non-existent trucking companies, then depositing the checks into his personal accounts or cashing them out.
He listed the checks from White Dairy as corporate expenses, which reduced the corporate tax liability for his company, according to court documents.
Investigators counted 23 checks — totaling more than $80,000 — that Tankersley made out to the faux companies from January 2013 to November 2013.
Prosecutors estimate the tax loss from Tankersley’s conduct to be between $100,000 and $250,000.
The Internal Revenue Service began auditing Tankersley’s businesses in 2013, shortly after it was recognized as a Business of the Year by Arkansas Business.
Agents discovered the scheme and a fraud referral was made to the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division in June 2014.
In December 2014, Tankersley reported his corporate income at $1.4 million and his personal income at $388,000 for the prior year despite knowing the income was higher, according to court documents.
Tankersley retired as CEO in October 2018 after more than 50 years at the company, according to the Press Argus-Courier.
The newspaper reported that Tankersley started at the business in 1966, when it was known as White Dairy Ice Cream Company and located in Fort Smith.
The company owns Tankersley Foods, which distributes more than 10,000 items to cities in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, according to its website.
Current company officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.