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66 mile smuggling pipeline targeting our coast

66 mile smuggling pipeline targeting our coast (WPEC)

Just 66 miles of ocean separates Florida's coast from the Bahamas.

It’s a body of water exploited by smugglers, creating a pipeline for guns, drugs and people trying to get into this county.

TAKEDOWN AT SEA

CBS12 News Investigates obtained rare video of an intense take down at sea of suspected smugglers off the coast of Palm Beach County.

A closer look at the never before seen video shows a boat packed with people, migrants from around the world including Bolivia, China and Ecuador.

The feds tracked them from the West End, Bahamas to Florida.

Court records show some of the migrants on board are convicted felons and people who have been kicked out of the country at least once before.

For national security expert and former CIA Officer Lisa Ruth, the dramatic takedown on the high seas is proof that the threat is at our front door, but she says it's what we don't see that concerns her.

"Anybody who is caught, there's probably hundreds that are not caught," she said.

In a rare and exclusive sit down interview, United States Border Patrol Division Chief Peter Daniel told us one of their biggest challenges is staying one step ahead of the smugglers.

"We have experienced a high number of aliens traveling from Europe, the Middle East, the continent of Africa," he said.

Border Patrol numbers show there were more than 2,200 apprehensions for our area last year.

THE BAHAMIAN CONNECTION

So what is being done in the Bahamas to stop it?

CBS12 flew to Freeport to find out.

Once there, government officials stamped our passports but refused to allow us into the country.

CBS12 has been welcomed with cameras before to cover hurricanes, but not this time and not for this story.

After being held in the airport for several hours, a Bahamian government official ordered us to leave the country.

CBS12 did and found experts back in Florida to speak openly about what those with the Bahamian government won't.

"There are staging areas in the Bahamas where people actually come together," Ruth said.

“They'll pay the smugglers anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 depending on their nationality to be smuggled into the state of Florida," Daniel said.

Ruth says the reason smugglers cross to Palm Beach County is because it's just 66 miles straight east to Grand Bahama Island.

"Terrorists are very smart," Ruth said. "They historically exploited every vulnerability we've got - and this is a huge one."

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