TMZ has learned ... Miley Cyrus' people knew weeks before the "bong" video surfaced that it existed, and tried to bury it.
Sources tell TMZ ... a college student who came into possession of the video contacted one of Miley's reps shortly after Thanksgiving, asking if the rep wanted his copy. We're told money was discussed, in exchange for turning over the video.
Sources say Miley's camp sent a man in his 40s to the student's college campus in the San Luis Obispo area. The student gave the man his MacBook Pro which contained the "bong" video ... in return the man gave the student a new MacBook Pro. We're told no money changed hands, though we don't know why.
And we've learned ... Miley's camp did the same computer swap with another student who also had a copy of the video.
In the end, Miley's people couldn't scoop up all of the copies.