September 11, 2019 830 PM
MARFA — When the Marfa Band Booster Club revamped in 2017, David Gomez, then a custodian at Marfa High School, seemed like a good fit to run it.
The club’s sole purpose is to support and raise money for the Shorthorns Band at the school — where Gomez, 37, had deep ties. Gomez was placed on administrative leave, but his wife, Rachel, is still the secretary at the school. The couple’s son played in the band.
The first year with the revamped Band Boosters went well. The group successfully fundraised a June 2018 trip to Disneyland, where the Shorthorns got to show off their music skills. A Facebook photo, posted by Gomez, shows him beaming in front of a group of Marfa school kids at the Los Angeles-area amusement park.
As president of Band Boosters and a chaperone for the trip, Gomez was given a credit card to cover travel expenses. But that credit card soon became subject of a citywide controversy, after authorities said the once-popular Marfa Band Booster Club president racked up nearly $8,000 in non-band-related expenses.
David Gomez has for months maintained his innocence, saying he used the card accidentally to withdraw money intended for scholarships, new instruments and other band expenses. But at a court hearing on Wednesday, he reportedly pleaded guilty.
Roy Ferguson, judge for the 394th judicial district court, gave him two* years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $500 fine, authorities said. (At press time, the ruling has yet to be certified or entered into the official court record.) Gomez will also have to pay court costs and compensate Band Boosters for the $7,798.64 he took.
David Gomez declined to comment, as did his wife, Rachel.
Gomez’s legal troubles started in March, when Roxye Marquez, Band Booster Club treasurer and a teller at Marfa National Bank, checked on the Band Boosters account and discovered it was in the red.
The account should have had money left over from the 2018 Los Angeles trip — the last authorized expense for the club. Instead, it had a negative -$1.63 balance, according to a police report.
When Marquez asked the Gomezes about the balance, David Gomez came to Marfa National Bank and asked to speak with Marquez. Gomez explained he had “accidentally” used the card and “would return the funds in the next few weeks,” according to the police report. He then deposited $20 in the account, to prevent it from remaining overdrawn.
But questions kept mounting. As Band Booster members further reviewed statements, they noticed Gomez had made numerous withdrawals at ATMs and had even spent around $48 on a Grubhub food delivery order.
He had also spent Band Boosters money in Brownwood, Texas — a discovery authorities described as “significant” because Gomez had taken a family trip to Brownwood but had “no scheduled events or trips” in the city that “would warrant use of Band Booster funds,” according to the police report.
After speaking to Gomez in March, John Sherrill, principal of Marfa High School, placed Gomez on administrative leave. In June, the Presidio County District Attorney’s office charged Gomez with third-degree felony theft.
Sherill declined to comment on the case. Oscar Aguero, superintendent for the Marfa Independent School District, stressed that Band Boosters was a separate nonprofit entity and not directly affiliated with Marfa schools.
Brenda Bentley, secretary for Band Boosters, was one of the people who first discovered Gomez’s unusual charges. “We stumbled on it kind of on accident,” she said.
The credit card Gomez used was supposed to be destroyed after the trip, according to Bentley and others interviewed by authorities. “I think the mistake we made as a group was not coming back from that trip and immediately doing financials,” Bentley said.
Gomez, she added, had “let those kids down.”
Crawford Marginot, vice-president of the Band Booster Club, said she was initially understanding of Gomez’s explanations. But as the full scale and timeline of the theft was uncovered, she started to feel the theft “became something that wasn’t just an accident anymore.”
Like other people, Marginot struggled to reconcile her image of Gomez with the man described in police reports and court documents. He had a “great relationship with students” and encouraged them to “study hard and be proud of our school,” she said. Until, that is, he stole almost $8000.
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the terms of David Gomez’s probation. He received two years of probation, not six. We apologize for the error.