MIDDLE VILLAGE, Queens — Joni Yglesias Florea said she was 24 years old when she met her future husband, Eduard Florea, in 2010. He was a 30-year-old software engineer who worked with her mother.
“He always got great jobs. He was always able to get programming jobs,” the Queens housewife recalled.
During an extensive interview with PIX11, Joni Florea, now a 34-year-old mother of two, said the financial security offered by her husband, a Romanian immigrant raised by a single mother, kept her in a toxic and abusive relationship where she was afraid for her life if she challenged him on his increasingly radicalized political views.
Then, the FBI busted Eduard Florea on Jan. 12 with more than 1,000 rounds of rifle ammunition in the garage of their Queens home.
Federal authorities say he threatened online to deploy “cars full of armed patriots” to Washington during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. He’s charged with possessing ammunition as a convicted felon.
The red flags that Joni Florea was living with were her husband’s collection of heavy weapons and a box of Nazi toy soldiers he refused to throw out.
Joni Florea traced her insecurities and bad choices to a troubled childhood where she lost her father, a heroin addict, to AIDS when she was just 8 years old. The memory caused Florea to sob heavily on the phone.
“My mother didn’t look to my sister and me as people who were suffering,” Florea cried. “My family was on welfare. We were poor. We got evicted from place to place to place when I was young.”
About a year after she started dating Eduard Florea, when the couple was living together on Staten Island, Joni Florea said her cellphone battery died while visiting friends in Brooklyn. She said Eduard, who couldn’t reach her, was enraged when she returned home.
“He threw me down on the bed, and then he went to his gun safe and took out the rifle,” Joni Florea said through tears. “He pointed the rifle at me, and I put the sheets up — like they could protect me. And it happened a million times after that.”
Within another year, the couple’s daughter was born, and Joni Florea said the abuse only worsened.
They were married at City Hall in 2014.
One of the defining moments in the relationship happened on Father’s Day in 2014, when the young mom recalled they started arguing while she was breast-feeding their daughter, who was 19 months old at the time.
“He choked me and he took out the knife and said, ‘I’ll f—–g kill her and I’ll make you watch,” Joni Florea said.
That’s when the police were called. When officers arrived, they discovered Eduard Florea’s cache of 13 weapons, including a machine gun.
Eduard Florea was convicted of weapons possession in the third degree but Joni Florea said he was able to get the domestic violence charge dismissed.
While Eduard Florea did eight months in jail, his wife said she was on welfare and looking for shelter with their daughter.
Recalling that time, she said of poverty: “It makes you feel very weak.”
After Eduard Florea got out of jail, Joni Florea said he worked his way back into her life and the couple later had a son, now 4 years old.
“I’m on antidepressants since the incident,” Joni Florea said of the 2014 disturbance and arrest. “I couldn’t do or say anything that didn’t align with his views.”
Florea said her husband defended the “Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski, the elusive domestic terrorist who mailed 16 bombs over an 18-year period, leaving three people dead and 23 injured before he was finally caught.
And she said Eduard Florea once stabbed himself as a youth during an argument with his mother, and he bears a scar from that incident.
In 2017, when the couple was moving to Middle Village, Queens, Joni Florea said she found a box of Nazi soldier memorabilia among her husband’s possessions and wanted to throw it out.
She said Eduard Florea wouldn’t let her.
“He had claimed he went through a phase as a teen where he hung swastikas on the wall,” Joni Florea said.
After his arrest last week, Joni Florea told PIX11 her husband told her to play down her Spanish heritage.
“Tell people stop referring to him as Spanish. He is a white Romanian and he hated my last name and asked me not to boast about being Spanish to people. I am Spanish and Italian,” Joni Florea said.
The wife said trouble in their home escalated again during the Black Lives Matter marches last spring and summer, after George Floyd died when a White Minnesota police officer knelt on the Black man’s neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Joni Florea said she cried about what happened to Floyd and started posting messages of support on her Facebook page about the BLM movement. She said this enraged her husband, who was working — and mostly sleeping — in the basement by this time.
“He threw me across the room in the basement,” Joni Florea told PIX11. “He’s a f—–g animal. I was dazed.”
Still, Joni Florea said she summoned up the courage to confront her husband.
“Just admit you’re a racist,” Florea claims she said to him.
After the basement incident, the wife said, “I just internalized my pain, stood silent, and I cried in the shower.”
Following the Nov. 3 presidential election, when vote counting in multiple battleground states had the entire country on edge, Joni Florea said the tension in her home peaked.
“Newsmax was on non-stop,” she said, adding: “Everyone thought, ‘Oh my God, Fox News betrayed us,'” a reference to the conservative news channel calling Arizona for Joe Biden on election night.
Joni Florea acknowledged her political activism kicked into high gear. She had voted for President Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.
“I thought he would fight for America,” Joni Florea told PIX11 News earlier this week.
Florea said she and her husband were going to build a conservative GoFundMe, believing former Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s arguments that Trump had been cheated out of the election.
Joni Florea said of her husband, “I was trying to redirect his energy, because he was so radicalized that I figured since he’s a programmer, he could maybe program this thing where we can start raising, you know, money for things that really matter to religious conservatives, people who wanted to do good things for the country.”
“I had a group on Facebook called ‘Right Movement.’ It had 1,500 followers,” she added.
The couple had also created a website called “Boycott Fox News,” she said, but changed it to another name, “Right Funds.”
Yet Joni Florea said she was upset in December 2020 when Eduard Florea decided to go to Washington, D.C. on some kind of extremist excursion.
“He came back in a van full of people,” she recalled. “He told me two of them were Proud Boys. He sold them to me as these patriotic people who loved their country.”
And in the days leading up to the Capitol riot that left five people dead, Joni Florea said her husband was active on the account he’d created on the right-wing online platform Parler.
FBI agent Megan Casler, a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, quoted some of his statements in court on Jan. 13, saying Eduard Florea called his account “LoneWolfWar.”
On the night of Jan. 5, Casler said Eduard Florea posted a general threat against Washington, D.C. politicians: “I catch one of you f—–s in DC tomorrow … definitely slicing a throat.”
He also allegedly replied to another Parler poster who had cursed one of Georgia’s newest senators, Raphael Warnock, a Black man.
“Dead men can’t pass s–t laws,” Eduard Florea allegedly wrote.
Joni Florea said she made her husband delete a post he made on her Parler account.
“My husband was convinced he was going to have to go out and fight a civil war,” Joni Florea said.
Yet on Jan. 6, Eduard Florea did not make the trip to Washington, D.C., “because the ride never came,” his wife said.
After watching the deadly Capitol riot on TV, Joni Florea said she was horrified.
The couple started fighting again about what message would be included on their conservative website, and there was a showdown on the Saturday before Eduard Florea’s arrest.
“I told him I would never put Proud Boys on this site,” Joni Florea claimed.
The wife cried as she recalled her 8-year-old daughter walking in while her husband allegedly held a knife over her in the first-floor bedroom.
“My daughter opened the door and she saw it,” Joni Florea said. “She was shaking in her shoes … She said, ‘Daddy, it’s love–not violence.'”
Joni Florea told PIX11 that 20 minutes before the FBI showed up on Jan. 12, she was making a video with her family denouncing Trump’s rally that preceded the Capitol riot. She said her children were in the video and she tried to encourage her husband to take part.
“I made a video telling everyone to hang up their Trump shirts,” Joni Florea said, claiming the footage is now in the possession of the FBI.
When Eduard Florea was questioned by federal investigators, agents said he made a statement of support for the Proud Boys.
He remains in jail with no bail.
“He’s a horrible monster, and I feel free but petrified,” Joni Florea said.
Domestic and family health violence is estimated to affect 10 million people in the United States every year. Anyone looking for resources can reach out for help at the websites and phone numbers listed here. In an emergency, victims of domestic violence should call 911 or contact state or local law enforcement officials.