TAMPA — A Florida orthodontist whose Tampa practice closed suddenly has left patients in limbo.
A growing number of former patients say they paid Manuel Alejandro Gutierrez-Rodriguez, 47, owner of Gutierrez Orthodontics in north Tampa, thousands of dollars for treatments and procedures, such as braces and removable aligners.
Now they say they can’t reach the orthodontist, who goes by “Alex.”
Carlos Jimenez, a home investor who now lives in Chicago, began his dental treatment at Gutierrez Orthodontics in 2019. He said he paid $5,200 for Invisalign, a custom teeth-straightening system. Last July, Jimenez visited Gutierrez’s office to have his aligners changed. Jimenez said that during his appointment, he was given temporary retainers.
Since then, he said, he never saw the orthodontist again.
“When I called him, his assistants gave me excuses,” said Jimenez. “Sometimes they told me that they didn’t have the proper materials or the distributors were late with the orders.”
Jimenez said a group of at least a dozen patients, the majority of whom are Hispanic, have been organizing in recent weeks on WhatsApp and Facebook to get the attention of the authorities and try to recover their money.
Patients aren’t the only ones looking for Gutierrez, who has an outstanding arrest warrant from February that says his “whereabouts are unknown.” He could not be reached for comment last week. The number for his office was disconnected, and the link for his business website was shut down. A licensed dentist in Florida since 2001, he does not have any disciplinary action listed against him, according to the state health department.
Gutierrez’ lawyer, Jason Bard, declined to comment in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.
Florida health officials said they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint against Gutierrez because of confidentiality laws regarding such filings against a licensed health care practitioner.
“If probable cause has been found, an administrative complaint will be filed and the case will become public,” said the Florida Department of Health in an email to the Times. “If probable cause is not found, the case will remain confidential.”
Born in Puerto Rico and fluent in Spanish, Gutierrez portrayed himself on a new patient welcome letter as an active member of the Catholic Church, a community volunteer and a fan of sports and outdoor activities such as motorcycle racing and snowboarding. He also said he’s devoted to delivering the best care and keeping open communication with his patients to meet their expectations and be sure that all their questions are answered.
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Gutierrez was featured in Tampa Magazine, which quotes him as saying he likes “to practice mindfulness with the combination of diet and exercise.” According to Pinellas County court records, he is also going through a divorce.
Gutierrez pleaded guilty to reckless driving in May 2022 after originally being charged with a DUI, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Pinellas County. He was placed on probation for 12 months, but failed to report in January or pay $220 in fees, according to the affidavit. He also didn’t provide proof that he completed or attended a multiple-offender DUI school.
Pinellas court records also show Gutierrez was arrested on a DUI charge in 1994 and pleaded guilty. A judge sentenced him to a year of probation, and his driver’s license was revoked for six months, among other penalties, according to the documents.
Five years ago, Danielle Machado of Tampa took her son and daughter to Gutierrez for braces and Invisalign. She says she paid almost $10,000.
“The first three years he was absolutely phenomenal,” said Machado. “Now I’m trying to find somebody else.”
Machado said her kids had a follow-up appointment in November, but Gutierrez wasn’t in his office. She said there were angry patients waiting outside.
“After that, we got a phone call from Gutierrez’s office saying that they have to close for three weeks because the doctor has a family emergency,” said Machado.
In December they opened for only two weeks, according to Machado, and they closed again for the holidays.
In January, Machado said, Gutierrez’s office opened, but she never saw him working inside.
“I called them, and I said that all of this was unacceptable. Five days later, the phone line, the email address and the line that Gutierrez was using for patients were just ringing busy.”
On Gutierrez’s Facebook page, one of his posts reads: “JUST A LITTLE adjustment can make a world of difference.”
“I’m irritated, but I know I’m not the only one,” said Machado. “The only thing that you want to do is be done with all of this, but I can’t reach him. It is frustrating.”
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How to look up a medical provider
To search a medical license or disciplinary actions, check the Florida Department of Health’s website or call the Florida Board of Dentistry at 850-245-4474 or email at MQA.ConsumerServices@flhealth.gov.