Attorneys for Rita’s Margaritas and Mexican Grill owner Rita Jimenez Pimentel and her son Robert Lopez Fregoso entered not guilty pleas today to charges involving workers’ compensation insurance.

Pimentel, 70, and Fregoso, 36, are both charged with one misdemeanor count of failure to purchase the insurance. Fregoso is also charged with a felony count of workers’ compensation fraud.  

According to the criminal complaint against him, Fregoso made a false statement, orally and in writing, relating to the cost of a workers’ compensation policy “for the purpose of reducing the premium, rate and cost of insurance.”

Attorney Heidi Wells was in Judge Timothy Canning’s courtroom this afternoon for Fregoso’s arraignment and entered not guilty pleas. Fregoso attended the hearing but his mother did not appear. Attorney David Nims was there to represent Pimentel, also entering a plea on her behalf. Both lawyers waived their clients’ right to a speedy preliminary hearing, so the hearing was scheduled for Feb. 20 of next year.

Pimentel’s restaurant on Fifth Street in Eureka was recently closed for health and safety violations but has reopened.

As a side issue, Fregoso was warned today by two courtroom bailiffs to stay away from blogger John Chiv, who wrote recently about Fregoso being arrested for alleged parole violation. Chiv complained this morning after Fregoso reportedly confronted him in the courthouse.

In court, as Fregoso kept turning around to look at Chiv, the bailiff told him to keep his eyes forward. And outside court, another bailiff warned Fregoso that a complaint had been filed and he could face criminal charges.