The former treasurer for the Atascadero High School Band and Pageantry Booster Club has pleaded not guilty to embezzlement charges.
Sherry Gong, 48, who was charged earlier this month with three counts of embezzlement, entered the plea in a San Luis Obispo County courtroom Monday morning during her arraignment.
The criminal complaint filed against Sherry Gong alleges she stole a total of $32,554 from the school group on three different occasions between July 2017 and April 2018.
After the charges were filed, Gong’s attorney, Guy Galambos, said that in April 2018, his client faced a financial crisis when a close family member called her and begged her for money, saying he needed it within three days as it was a matter ‘of life or death,’ but refused to give details.
“Sherry made a very serious mistake and borrowed funds from the Atascadero High School Band Boosters organization. She was not authorized to take this money and told no one about it, including her husband,” Galambos said.
Gong is married to San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong, who was by her side during Monday’s arraignment.
Neither the Gongs nor Galambos were available to answer questions following the hearing.
Before the investigation involving Sherry Gong began, her attorney says Sherry Gong began raising money from other family members and selling personal jewelry with the intent to pay back the funds.
“When she was contacted by the Atascadero Police Department, Sherry agreed to an interview where she admitted her actions and she presented replacement funds to the investigating detective in the form of cashier’s checks,” Galambos said.
Galambos says her husband, Tommy, was only informed about the embezzlement after the interview with police was conducted.
Tommy Gong previously released the following statement:
My wife, Sherry Gong, is being charged for some criminal actions. I was not aware of this matter until I received a call from an Atascadero Police Department detective recently, and I am not implicated in these matters. This is a painful, personal family matter, and I ask that my family and I be granted privacy regarding this matter. I deeply love and care for my wife and family, and I will stand by her side and support her during this very difficult time. At this time, I have no further comments. – Tommy Gong
“Ms. Gong feels great remorse and shame for her actions,” Galambos said, adding at the time that Sherry Gong planned to formally take responsibility for her mistakes and seeks to repay the school organization as soon as possible.
She is due back in court Aug. 13.
The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office says, if convicted, Sherry Gong faxes a maximum sentence of four years, four months behind bars.