The wife of San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong appeared in court Monday and pleaded not guilty to embezzling more than $32,000 from the booster club of the Atascadero High School band.
Sherry Gong, the former treasurer for the booster organization, faces three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement. If convicted, Gong faces up to four years and four months in prison.
A criminal complaint filed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office alleges Gong took $3,104 out of an Atascadero High School Band and Pageantry Booster Club bank account on about July 5, 2017. Then on about April 24, 2018, Gong allegedly lifted $19,000 from a second booster club bank account. Later the same day, Gong allegedly took another $9,850 from another of the club’s accounts.
Gong’s attorney, Guy Galambos, released a statement saying his client admitted to taking funds from the booster club, though she “borrowed” the money to address a family emergency. Galambos’s account of the personal use of the booster club funds does not match the timeline of the embezzlement allegations in the criminal complaint.
“About a year ago (April 2018) Sherry Gong was subjected to a highly stressful family crisis. A close family member called her in a panic. He begged her for a large sum of money he needed within three days, declaring it was a matter of life or death, but he wouldn’t elaborate on the details,” Galambos’s statement says.
Galambos characterized the embezzled funds as borrowed money and as an emergency loan that Sherry Gong intended to repay but never did. Sherry Gong tried to recoup the money by borrowing from extended family members and selling some of her jewelry, her attorney said.
Gong admitted her actions in an interview with Atascadero police detectives and presented replacement funds in the form of a cashier’s check, Galambos said in the statement.
Tommy Gong, who attended Monday’s court hearing, did not learn of the embezzlement case until after the police interview, Galambos said. The county clerk-recorder is not implicated in the case, and he said in a statement he is standing by his wife’s side and supporting her.
Sherry Gong has posted $25,000 bail and is not currently in custody.