Restaurant owner convicted of theft is ordered to pay $327,000 in restitution

Robert's opened its Paso Robles location on Pine Street in 2010.
Robert's opened its Paso Robles location on Pine Street in 2010.

A local restaurant owner convicted of taking advantage of a 99-year-old woman while acting as her trustee was ordered to pay more than $320,000 in restitution, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office.

Robert Clouston, 51, of Templeton is set to appear in San Luis Obispo Superior Court again Thursday on the restitution issue. Last week he was ordered to pay roughly $327,000 in restitution.

Clouston was sentenced to a year in jail last July after pleading no contest to two felony counts of theft from an elder with a special allegation of white-collar crime. The victim, Elizabeth Nelson, said she and her now-deceased husband, Raymond, appointed Clouston to be a trustee for their 17 acres of property in Templeton, hoping Clouston would bring commercial development to the land. Money made from that, in the form of leases, would be given to charity, according to their agreement.

But, prosecutors alleged, Clouston took the property out of the trust in 2008 without Nelson's knowledge and placed it in his own limited liability corporation. He then took out two loans for $500,000 on the property and used it for his own benefit — including using some money to pay rent for his businesses.

Clouston owns Estrella and Robert's Restaurant in Paso Robles and Robert's Restaurant & Bar in Arroyo Grande.

After his sentencing, Clouston told The Tribune he borrowed the money to fulfill Nelson's goal of giving money to charity. Some of the money, he said, went to fees and environmental studies.

"We didn't steal anything," he said last July.

His attorney at the time, Jordan Cunningham, said his client was confused about the duties of a trustee, though the prosecution said the crimes occurred over a period of time, suggesting it wasn't a mistake. Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan told the court Clouston's plans for the land included residential development Nelson didn't know about that would have called for the demolition of her home.