California woman sentenced for money laundering in local meth ring

By Jeff Reinitz

WATERLOO – A California woman has been sentenced to prison for running a money laundering operation as part of her husband’s drug ring that shipped meth into Iowa.

Judge Leonard Strand sentenced Janeth Amelia Pineda, 36, of Chula Vista, to three years in prison on Wednesday following a plea to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. She will be on supervised release for two years after she completes her prison sentence.

Her husband, Michael Pineda, 34, has pleaded guilty to money laundering and meth conspiracy charges and is awaiting sentencing.

Others indicted include Brandon Neil Harders, formerly of Waterloo; Samuel Arias, Michael Pineda’s stepfather; Robert Lewis of Janesville and Jeffery “Slim” Westberg, and authorities sought to seize Harders’ rural Gladbrook home as part of the investigation.

Authorities said Michael Pineda’s operation shipped ice methamphetamine from California hidden in auto accessory parcels destined for Iowa.

Janeth Pineda, instructed by her husband, opened accounts at Wells Fargo Bank that the Iowa meth customers would use to deposit drug money they owed the husband. The operation moved more than $370,000 worth of drug money in less than two years, according to prosecutors.

Court records state Michael Pineda traveled to Coralville in 2014 to deliver meth and met with Harders. After the meeting, police stopped Harders when he was traveling back to Waterloo and found about 3 pounds of meth.

In August 2018, Harders was sentenced to 11 years in prison following a plea, and Westberg was sentenced to seven years in October. A jury found Lewis guilty of meth charges conspiracy charges following a trial in August.