Clearwater man arrested for exploiting elderly and disabled

Fernando Gutierrez

A 58-year-old Clearwater man is being held in the Pinellas County jail on charges related to exploitation of two elderly and disabled victims.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the arrest of Fernando Gutierrez June 22 after an investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Unit, Clearwater police and the sheriff’s office.

Gutierrez is accused of gaining access to the victims’ personal papers and funds and transferring money into his personal accounts.

In one incident, Gutierrez established himself as power of attorney for an elderly victim without proper consent to the arrangement. Gutierrez then transferred the victim’s funds to an account with the defendant as the trustee. When Gutierrez lost power of attorney, he continued to use the victim’s funds.

In the second incident, Gutierrez went to an assisted living facility and presented himself as a health care proxy or guardian for an incapacitated elderly victim that suffered from a fall. As guardian, Gutierrez gained access to the victim’s personal papers and used the information to assume control of the victim’s bank account. The investigation revealed that Gutierrez redirected the assets in the victim’s personal account to a shared account between the defendant and victim. Gutierrez then transferred money in the shared account to personal accounts.

Gutierrez was charged with two counts of exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult, each a first-degree felony. Bail was set at $750,000. If convicted, Gutierrez faces up to 60 years in prison and $20,000 in fines. The State Attorney’s Office for the Sixth Judicial Circuit will prosecute this case.

He also was charged with one count of trespassing and one count of battery.

The Florida Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit investigates allegations of patient abuse, neglect and exploitation in facilities receiving payments under the Medicaid program. Additionally, the MFCU investigates and prosecutes providers that intentionally defraud the state's Medicaid program through fraudulent billing practices.

Since January 2011, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has obtained more than $700 million in settlements and judgments. In 2017, the Unit was awarded the Inspector General's Award for Excellence in Fighting Fraud, Waste and Abuse. This award is presented annually to the nation’s top Medicaid Fraud Control Unit by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.