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DHS: Smuggling operation busted on Palm Beach, 12 suspects in custody

Posted: 10:57 AM, Jan 17, 2020
Updated: 2020-01-17 19:21:25-05
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PALM BEACH, Fla. — 12 immigrants are in custody after a major smuggling operation was busted on Palm Beach on Friday, authorities say.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, a boat packed with immigrants came ashore around 10:45 a.m. in the 900 block of N. Ocean Boulevard.

DHS said all 12 suspects are now in custody, including Chinese, Cuban, and Bahamian nationals. They've been turned over to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, police said.

WATCH IMMIGRANTS COME ASHORE:

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Immigrants come ashore on Palm Beach

A Homeland Security official said the agency is taking over the case and investigating it as a smuggling operation.

A spokesperson for the Palm Beach Police Department said a boat came ashore Friday morning with 9 to 12 immigrants on board, and it was reported to police by a citizen.

"A citizen complaint that a boat came ashore on the island, there was a landing, and people disembarked from the boat and fled onto the island," said Michael Ogrodnick, Public Information Officer for the Palm Beach Police Department.

Video from WPTV showed several of the suspects handcuffed and sitting on a curb, surrounded by police. Officers eventually put them into SUVs and took them away.

VIDEO FROM SCENE:

RAW VIDEO: Asian immigrants come ashore on Palm Beach ahead of President Trump's visit, police say

Exclusive video from WPTV Chopper 5 showed a boat washed up on the sand nearby as rough surf battered and flooded it. It's believed the immigrants came ashore on that vessel.

CHOPPER 5 VIDEO:

CHOPPER 5 VIDEO: Asian immigrants detained after coming ashore on Palm Beach ahead of President Trump's visit, police say

Palm Beach police said the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol were involved in the search for the suspects.

The area where authorities said the immigrants came ashore is about five miles north of President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club on Palm Beach.

The president is scheduled to fly into Palm Beach International Airport around 5 p.m. Friday to spend the weekend at Mar-a-Lago.

This is the latest in a series of security incidents involving Chinese nationals in and around President Trump's Palm Beach club.

56-year-old Jing Lu was arrested on Dec. 16, 2019 for loitering and prowling after she trespassed onto Mar-a-Lago grounds and refused to leave.

In November of last year, another Chinese national, 33-year-old Yujing Zhang, was sentenced to 8 months behind bars for lying her way into Mar-a-Lago on March 30, 2019.

Zhang is currently awaiting deportation and is being held at the Glades County Detention Center.

Palm Beach police said if you notice any suspicious activity on the island, contact the agency immediately at 561-838-5454.