July 04--The co-owner of two Paso Robles restaurants will be sentenced July 29 for taking property from an elderly Templeton woman and using it as collateral for personal loans.
Robert Kenneth Clouston, 50, who co-owns Robert's Restaurant and Estrella with his wife, pled no contest June 18 to two felony counts of theft from an elder over $400 with a special allegation for white collar crime. As a result, he faces five years of probation and up to a year in jail.
According to a defense motion, Clouston became the trustee of the victim's 17-acre Main Street property in Templeton with the purpose of developing it into a commercial marketplace "that would benefit the community of Templeton after she was gone."
But the county District Attorney's Office alleged that Clouston took the property out of the trust in 2008 without the woman's knowledge and placed it in his own limited liability corporation. He also took two loans, worth $500,000, out on the property, according to the prosecution, and used it for his own benefit.
The transfer was discovered in 2011, according to the complaint filed in court.
Clouston claimed he was entitled to use the property as compensation for his time and expenses, according to the prosecution.
In a statement emailed to The Tribune, his wife, Brenda Clouston, said her husband did not use the money to further the restaurants and was not familiar with the strict procedures required to be a trustee. He entered a plea, she said, to avoid a lengthy trial.
According to an investigator's report, the loan money paid for business expenses, including rent for Robert's in Paso Robles.
The Cloustons are currently building a third restaurant, Robert's Restaurant & Bar, in Arroyo Grande.
Julie Lynem contributed to this story.
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