The woman who admitted to embezzling thousands of dollars from the Atascadero High School Band and Pageantry Booster Club was sentenced Wednesday to about six months in jail and three years of probation.
While holding back tears, Sherry Gong told the court, “I feel so sorry.”
San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy handed down the sentence to Gong while denying the request for the minimum sentence of about 10-30 days in jail and a motion that would reduce the crime from a felony to misdemeanor.
Gong pleaded guilty in August to three charges of embezzlement filed against her.
The criminal complaint alleges she stole a total of $32,554 from the organization on three different occasions between July 2017 and April 2018 while serving as treasurer of the Atascadero High School club.
Gong’s attorney, Guy Galambos, said his client has no criminal history and that she approached the director of the band before police were made aware of the missing funds, but was turned away.
A statement from a booster club member that was read in court Wednesday said, “The embezzlement crime destroyed our financial security.”
The club claims it was unable to offer scholarships due to lack of funds.
“Sherry Gong was trusted… She also betrayed the high school, community,” the statement read, continuing, “Sherry Gong knew what she was doing when she took from the kids.”
After charges were filed against her in July, Gong admitted to taking the money. Galambos said a close family member had begged her for money, saying he needed it as a matter "of life or death." Galambos said before an investigation began, Gong was already raising money from other family members and selling personal jewelry with the intent to pay back the funds.
She is scheduled to begin serving her 180-day sentence Dec. 2.
Gong was also ordered to not volunteer or be employed in a capacity where she has financial responsibilities.
Gong is the wife of San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong.