Carroll Jarrett knew something was terribly wrong when he bit into a piece of fried chicken on the Fourth of July and his two front teeth fell out.
“It was gross,” Jarrett, 48, recalled Tuesday. “I had two little bitty nubs where my smile was.”
When the Anadarko man returned to Oklahoma City and the office of the dentist who had treated him and his 14-year-old daughter, she was nowhere to be found.
Jarrett was greeted by a different dentist who said she had no record of his previous visits.
“She acted like she didn't know what was going on,” he said.
The Anadarko man was among those duped by a mother and daughter who posed as dentists after hours while employed as office workers during the day and — if paid in cash — offered their services to uninsured customers who spoke little English, state dental board authorities allege.
Elizabeth Hinojosa, 47, and Monica Salazar Orozco, 28, both of Oklahoma City, were charged Friday in Oklahoma County District Court with practicing dentistry without a license, a felony. Hinojosa also was charged with one count each of forgery, medical battery and embezzlement.
Warrants have been issued for their arrest.
Susan Rogers, executive director of the Oklahoma Dentistry Board, said Tuesday that as many as 100 adults and children were victimized by Hinojosa and Orozco, who remain at large.
“This is a Pandora's box,” Rogers said during an interview at the board's office. “When we started this, we had no idea how big and bad it was.”
Hinojosa is believed to be in San Antonio, where she worked for a dentist until quitting Friday, Rogers said.
Hinojosa, also known as “Dr. Liz” by the victims, was a dental assistant and her daughter was a receptionist where the alleged crimes took place between September 2010 and May 2011, according to a probable cause affidavit filed with the charges.
Both worked for Dr. Salam Ramadan, who owns and operates Dental Spa locations at 1211 SW 44 and 3315 NW 63 in Oklahoma City.
Ramadan has said she didn't learn about the alleged crimes until she was contacted by the board, which started investigating when it received a complaint.
Rogers said Ramadan is not suspected of any wrongdoing, and may have been targeted by Hinojosa.
“Liz is very good scam artist,” Rogers said. “She covered her tracks.”
Hinojosa was hired by Ramadan and a different dentist as a Spanish translator as well as part-time dental assistant.
Rogers said neither dentist Hinojosa worked for spoke any Spanish, and relied on her and/or her daughter to translate for all patients during procedures and to set appointments. But they scheduled appointments after the offices closed and forwarded office calls to their personal phones, she said.
Hinojosa and Orozco performed unlicensed dental work on at least 22 adults and children, including extractions, fillings, bridges and other procedures, investigators allege. They also are accused of injecting anesthesia and forging prescriptions.
Among the alleged victims: Jarrett's teenage daughter, who got braces from Hinojosa.
Jarrett paid Hinojosa $6,200 for porcelain veneers, which he never received, and braces for his daughter, which came apart on a family outing. Another daughter removed the wires from the braces, which were cutting the inside of the girl's mouth, he said.
Rogers said she is concerned about the health of the victims. At least one unidentified victim, she said, has contracted hepatitis C as a result of a dental procedure performed by Hinojosa.
Some of the victims are reluctant to come forward because of immigration concerns, Rogers said, adding that a majority of victims are Hispanic.
Jarrett said he only wanted to regain a smile damaged by a bicycle accident when he was 10 and left him without a front tooth. Instead, he suffered painful injections, extractions and grinding and the loss of his two front teeth.
“I didn't know,” he said. “I thought she was a dentist.”