ATLANTA (CBS46) – A group of Maryland parents have been left wondering what happened after their orthodontist vanished, only to reappear in Atlanta.

Arianna Hatton was one of those parents. She wanted to give her then 13-year-old daughter the perfect smile. She decided to go with an orthodontist she trusted, Darrell Clark. He corrected crooked teeth for almost thirty years, had a clean record with the state dental board and had promising online reviews from other patients.

Hatton paid $6,000 up front for the orthodontic work and said her daughter saw Clark for a little over a year. Then one day, Hatton said she showed up to book her daughter’s next appointment and the office was empty.

“It was just an empty space when I looked in the office, there was nothing,” Hatton said. “I mean nothing. The office was completely empty. He just left town with a lot of patients that, you know, still had braces on and didn’t know what to do.”

Online comments reflected the disappearance of Clark from Maryland. Ex-patients called him, “very unprofessional,” and claimed they, “cannot even get dental records” from his office. It left hundreds of families convinced Dr. Clark took thousands of dollars they paid upfront and took off.

“I never got a letter. He didn’t call. My numbers still the same from when I first went to his office. He never called, he never said anything at all,” Hatton said.

CBS46 went searching for Clark and found him right at an office in metro Atlanta. Clark’s story shifted as CBS46’s Brittany Miller talked to him. In the beginning, he said he told all his patients that he was closing his practice and moving to another office. Then, he backtracked admitting some families never heard from him.

“I sent letters. I left a message on the same phone they had been calling before and that was there for two months. Two months,” Clark said. “I couldn’t get ahold of everybody. I couldn’t get to all the letters I wanted to send out. I couldn’t pay for the stamps.”

Clark said he couldn’t pay any of his bills at the time. He revealed to CBS46 that he was flat broke.

“I had long, um, been living paycheck to paycheck. I have no retirement, no nothing,” Clark said through tears, “and for all of this to come down in that way, I was just scrambling and praying to Jesus Christ and I just was trying to get as much together as I could.”

When Miller asked Clark about what happened to the money that was paid out by hundreds of families; he said it wasn’t going to him.

“The receipts of every day, I would collect and put it in the bank and it went someplace else,” Clark said. “It never went to my pocket. I only got back after all the bills had been paid and staff had been paid, whatever was leftover came to me. If there was nothing, there was nothing.”

Miller asked Clark what he would say to people calling him a con-man. Clark responded, “Well, look at my accounts and you’ll see what is the con and what’s not the con. Yeah.”

Clark was then put on the spot by Miller who called Hatton, with Clark present, to talk about her $6,000 charge.

“I would like to reach out to try to help you,” Clark said.

“The service was not even worth it,” Hatton said.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry for those past things,” Clark responded.

Clark said that he is ready to put his money where his mouth is when it comes to the issue of what happened in Maryland.

“There’s a lot of people that I owe and it’s to my understanding that it may be for the rest of my life that I’m paying back,” Clark said.

Reporter

Brittany Miller is an Emmy-award winning journalist, who joined CBS46 News in April 2015.

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