FBI agents killed in Florida had history of investigating child porn, exploitation cases

SUNRISE, Fla. — The two FBI agents who were fatally shot while serving a warrant Tuesday morning had a distinguished history of investigating sexual exploitation and child pornography cases in South Florida.

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Daniel Alfin, 36, and Laura Schwartzenberger, 43, died while FBI agents attempted to serve a search warrant in a child exploitation case in Sunrise. Three other agents were injured, and the suspect also died, according to the FBI.

“I can only imagine how these families are feeling today,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday evening. “My heart aches for the families.

“They put their lives on the line and that’s a hell of a price to pay.”

>> 2 FBI agents killed, 3 wounded while serving warrant in South Florida

Born in New York, Alfin became an FBI agent in 2009, the Sun-Sentinel reported. He used his academic background in information science to catch cybercriminals preying on children, the newspaper reported.

Alfin led an investigation, called Operation Pacifier, into a website called Playpen, believed to be the largest child pornography website on the dark web, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

In federal court, Alfin testified that FBI and Department of Justice executives had approved a plan for the FBI to operate the Playpen site for two weeks, attaching software to the site in an effort to identify users, the Miami Herald reported.

Playpen founder Steven W. Chase, of Naples, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2017, the newspaper reported. More than 900 people were arrested worldwide.

In March 2020, Alfin assisted in a case against former Miami mayoral aide Rene Pedrosa for allegedly groping a teen boy at City Hall and exchanging lewd photos, the Herald reported. Federal officials charged Pedrosa with production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, and coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity, according to court records.

“It serves as yet another reminder that the courageous members of our law enforcement community put their lives on the line every day to make our communities safer from the type of sick, depraved people who would exploit and prey on our children,” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said in a statement.

Schwartzenberger, who lived in nearby Coral Springs, had been with the FBI and specialized in crimes against children, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

She was assigned to the Miami Field Office Innocent Images National Initiative, which tracks people who sexually exploit children online.

Schwartzenberger was the lead agent in a 2018 sextortion case that led to a 50-year prison for Patrick Killen, then 25, of Hialeah, the Herald reported. Killen was convicted of posing as a teenage female to persuade about 300 boys to send him sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves.

In a 2018 interview with WPEC, Schwartzenberger spoke about her expertise on the crime and expressed sympathy for victims.

“It is very traumatizing for the victim,” she said. “Their reputation is on the line.”

“Every day, FBI special agents put themselves in harm’s way to keep the American people safe. Special Agent Alfin and Special Agent Schwartzenberger exemplified heroism today in defense of their country,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “The FBI will always honor their ultimate sacrifice and will be forever grateful for their bravery,” Wray said in the statement.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said the agents’ deaths were “an unimaginable tragedy.”

“These brave agents work to keep people safe from predators and criminals,” Tony said in a statement. “Today, two of these courageous souls lost their lives. We offer our deepest condolences for the agents who were killed and our healing prayers for those who were wounded.”