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Former Dominican TV star gets prison in Bergen drug, money laundering ring

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia

EXCLUSIVE (ONLY ON CVP) : An Hispanic TV celebrity who forfeited $3 million bail when she fled the U.S. after being charged in a major drug case will go to state prison for three years and must reimburse Bergen County $6,000 for the cost of extraditing her from the Dominican Republic.

Seized last August after six years on the run, 28-year-old Yamilis Centeno-Rivera — formerly of Hackensack — pleaded guilty to a single count of drug possession with the intent to distribute.

Under the terms of her plea deal, she will receive “three years flat” and must pay restitution to the county, Superior Court Judge Edward Jerejian said yesterday in Hackensack. The INS has placed a detainer on her, meaning she’ll likely be deported after serving her sentence.

“Crime doesn’t pay,” Jerejian told Centeno-Rivera before sheriff’s officers returned her to the Bergen County Jail. “Go on with your life.”

CLIFFVIEW PILOT broke the exclusive story in August that Centeno-Rivera — who also has gone by the name Maricely Morfe Paulino – was arrested and returned to the U.S. after jumping bail and fleeing to her native country following her arrest on Jan. 23, 2006 in connection with a massive cocaine trafficking and money-laundering crew.

In addition to drug and financial-related crimes, Centeno-Rivera was originally charged with illegally packing a Lorcin .380-caliber handgun and giving bogus information to police.

Some members of the crew – including the ringleader, Roberto De Lorbe – were convicted and sentenced to prison.

Another man who was arrested along with Centeno-Rivera, Kelvin Caceres, pleaded guilty to lesser charges, cooperated with authorities and was released from state prison in 2011 after serving a little over a year behind bars. Prosecutor said Caceres was a buyer and not a ranking member of the network.

The Dominican government issued a warrant for Centeno Rivera’s arrest on Feb. 21, 2011 following a request for extradition from U.S. authorities.

The country’s National Drug Control Agency picked her up six months later in the inland city of Bonao — less than 50 miles northwest of Santo Domingo — where Dominican authorities said she’d been “living as an ordinary citizen.” They also seized her Toyota SUV and “personal property” made by Louis Vuitton, Lacoste and Bvlgari, among others.

Centeno Rivera is the third female member of the once-popular Dominican TV show “Sábado de Corporán” to end up in trouble with the law, one for cocaine trafficking and the other for running a tourist scam with her husband.

The show, which ran for up to seven hours every Saturday and included cash prizes and other contest gifts, lasted 25 years before being cancelled. Its creator, the popular Dominican celebrity Rafael Santos Corporán, died early last year.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor James Santulli told Jerejian yesterday that he recommended the plea because prosecutors now consider her “peripheral to the criminal activity.”

Centeno-Rivera, who was represented by attorney David Tougher, told the judge through an interpreter that she was very sorry and regrets her actions.

STORY, PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia

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