Government

Who Is the Miami Crypto Queen Accused of Devising Plan to Overthrow Election?

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez carries out the ribbon cutting ceremony for Eryka Gemma Flores' Miami Blockchain Center on June 14, 2019.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez carries out the ribbon cutting ceremony for Eryka Gemma Flores' Miami Blockchain Center on June 14, 2019. Photo by World Red Eye
She was once an obscure cryptocurrency promoter in Miami.

Now, she's at the heart of national intrigue, accused of providing a far-right group with a detailed plan to overturn a presidential election.

Eryka Gemma Flores is known in Miami's cryptocurrency circles as a venture capitalist and fierce advocate for digital currency. She founded the city's Bitcoin Center, a tech education hub in the downtown area, and supported Mayor Francis Suarez's efforts to prop the city up as the country's "crypto capital." She has described herself as the "Godmother of the Miami Crypto Scene."

But according to a New York Times report, Flores (identified in the story as "Eryka Gemma") had interests that extended well beyond the cryptocurrency world.

One week before the January 6, 2021 insurrection, the report states, Flores provided then-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio with a document titled “1776 Returns," which outlined a plan to storm government buildings around the Capitol, including the House and Senate office buildings and the U.S. Supreme Court. The document is a core component of the seditious conspiracy charge for which Tarrio and other members of the Proud Boys are currently on trial in Washington, D.C. court.

Text messages introduced as evidence in the trial show correspondence in which an "Eryk-A" transmits the document to Tarrio around 12:50 p.m. on December 30, 2020.

“If you don’t like my plan, let me know. I will pitch elsewhere," one message to Tarrio reads. "But I want you to be the executor and benefitor of my brilliance."

When describing the messages, federal prosecutors in the Tarrio trial have referenced the sender as "Erika Flores," noting that she pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions about the 1776 Returns document after receiving a subpoena last year. (She has not been charged in the case.)

One witness, prosecutors say, described Flores as a former girlfriend of Tarrio.

Samuel Armes, president of the Florida Blockchain Business Association, testified before a congressional committee that he believed the 1776 Returns plan was derived from a "war-gaming" document that he shared with Flores, whom he knew through the Florida cryptocurrency community. His document was a thought exercise in what would happen if a sitting president refused to leave office, he claimed.

Armes, a former analyst for the U.S. State Department who is trained as an intelligence operative, told the committee that Flores had taken his "ideas as an inspiration, and her or some group of people then turned it into '1776 Returns.'"

During the proceedings, Armes was asked why Flores had been claiming Armes authored the 1776 Returns plan and implored her to share it with Tarrio — to which he responded, "I guess she's just blame-shifting."

Who Is Flores?

A self-described libertarian, Flores was the youngest delegate in Washington state to work for the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign. She has attributed her love for cryptocurrency to her roots in libertarian politics, at one point noting that many of the early embracers of the Bitcoin movement followed an "anarchist" ideology.

Flores graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in aeronautics science and obtained a private pilot license. Later, while working for a bank in the aircraft leasing division, she recalled asking a big-time banker what he thought about Bitcoin during a video conference call.

"He laughed at me, and everyone in the conference call laughed at me," Flores said during a 2019 interview. "So I was like, this means that there’s something to this...Then I just went down the rabbit hole."

After her stint in the aircraft trading and leasing industry, she pivoted to cryptocurrency, launching "Miami International Bitcoin" in 2015, which Flores described as a "meet-up group" that eventually turned into a Facebook community where people would discuss cryptocurrency.

Her current bio on Twitter (@bankoferyka) reads: "paradigm shifts create prosperity. #sovereign #private pilot." She's described in court documents as a "romantic interest" of former Proud Boys leader Tarrio, who is also from Miami.

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Enrique Tarrio and the Proud Boys at a Virginia rally in January 2020.
Photo by Anthony Crider

What Is Her Connection to Miami?

Flores has been described as a "pillar" and "the godmother" of Miami's cryptocurrency community.

In 2019, she co-founded the Miami Blockchain Center alongside self-proclaimed "Bitcoin Pioneer" Nick Spanos a few blocks away from Bayfront Park in downtown Miami, which they described as an "incubator, event space and co-working space" to educate developers, entrepreneurs, and investors on blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

"We want Miami to be the best educated city in the world when it comes to this technology," Flores said at the center's inception.

During its grand opening, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez performed a ribbon cutting ceremony with an oversized pair of scissors as Flores stood beside him grinning. (Google now lists the center as "permanently closed.")

Flores was also CEO of the Bitcoin Center Miami, which, as she explained, ran the blockchain center.

Bitcoin Center Miami, marketed as a "prime location for teaching, training, and networking on the topics of bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, digital assets," has gone dormant on its event page.

The center's website — bitcoincenter.miami — now leads to Flores' personal site.

What Are Her Links to Mayor Suarez?

Aside from numerous photos dating back to 2019 of her and Suarez posing together at cryptocurrency events, Flores has been credited with educating Suarez about Bitcoin and promoting Miami as a crypto-friendly city –– notably one of Suarez's more passionate missions as mayor. 

According to a 2020 article by the crypto blog CoinCentral, Flores "worked closely with the mayor and city of Miami to put Miami Blockchain on the map."

"Mayor Francis Suarez is a forward-thinking man who agrees downtown should be a technology hub," Flores told CoinCentral, saying that the local government has been "so supportive" of her crypto-driven mission.

The mayor's office has not responded to New Times' request for comment via email. 

Flores tweeted that in 2020, the city "gave us an official proclamation" dubbing the week of January 13 through January 20 "Miami Blockchain Week," expressly mentioning Flores' Blockchain Center.

In late December 2021, photos from Flores' Instagram (@erykagemma_) show her speaking to audiences at Miami Art Week. One set of pictures shows Suarez gazing up at Flores as she speaks before a crowd at a Miami crypto event.

"Thanks @mayorofmiami for always supporting the local blockchain community," she wrote in the caption.

In April 2021, the mayor wished Flores a happy birthday on Twitter.
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca

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