Feds expected to indict doctor accused of running ‘pill mill’

Feds expected to indict doctor accused of running ‘pill mill’
Dr. Jong Whan Kim and Tammy Lynn Thompson make their first appearance in court. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Federal authorities anticipate filing criminal charges against a doctor accused of operating a “pill mill” out of his Tabor City office.

A judge recently granted the federal government’s request for a pre-indictment temporary restraining order (TRO) against assets owned by Dr. Jong Whan Kim and his office manager, Tammy Lynn Thompson. That order essentially freezes their properties – Kim’s residence at 8100 Twisted Hickory Road in Bladenboro, his office at 211 East Fifth Street in Tabor City, and Thompson’s residence at 303 Stake Road in Tabor City – which are subject to forfeiture.

Kim and Thompson have been in custody on more than a dozen state charges following a raid of Kim’s office on June 29. Columbus County District Attorney Jon David said the pair had been overprescribing narcotics to patients without legitimate medical reasons for years.

It is unclear when federal charges could be filed.

“Pill pusher”

District Attorney Jon David holds a news conference following a raid at a suspected pill mill. (Source: WECT)
District Attorney Jon David holds a news conference following a raid at a suspected pill mill. (Source: WECT)

In a news conference following Kim and Thompson’s arrests, David said the couple made more than $3 million while distributing around 1.7 million pills to patients. Another notable nugget learned: when investigators raided Kim’s Tabor City office they discovered he had no medical equipment or examination tables in patient rooms, just a chair for patients to sit in.

But newly-filed court documents give us a glimpse into the human impact of Kim’s alleged criminal activities. They provide a detailed description of two of Kim’s patients, one of whom overdosed just days after receiving a prescription from Kim.

That patient, listed as C.B., initially sought treatment for back pain, a document states, and started seeing Kim when he was employed at Bladen County Hospital (now Cape Fear Valley Hospital). Kim began prescribing the patient twelve methadone - an opioid commonly used to treat narcotic painkiller addiction but also used in pain management – 10mg tablets per day.

But in January of 2017, Kim referred the patient to another provider because he was being terminated by the hospital for overprescribing opioids to patients, according to the document. In his first visit with the new provider, the patient was told he was taking “the most methadone per month of any patient (the doctor) had ever seen,” the document states. That doctor reduced his prescription to two methadone 10 mg tablets and two morphine 2mg tablets per day.

Sometime thereafter, the patient found out Kim was practicing again and began receiving prescriptions of up to 270 methadone tablets for 30 days for back pain. The document specifically mentions an instance in November 2017 where the patient overdosed four days after being prescribed methadone by Kim.

Following Kim’s arrest, C.B. began seeing another doctor, who told him it was “not normal” for her to prescribe that much methadone to a patient, but she would continue to do so since he had been high amounts of the narcotic for so long.

According to the same document, in November 2017 Kim hired a different patient, listed as M.G., as his practice administrator at his house trailer on Twisted Hickory Road. The trailer, like his Tabor City office, reportedly lacked medical equipment. It was also covered in dust, dirt, and dog hair, according to the document.

During M.G.’s first two days on the job, Kim saw approximately ten or eleven patients, all but one claiming they were in a car wreck and asking for painkillers.

“Kim did not listen to patients’ hearts and lungs, and provided no patient counseling. Kim spent approximately ten minutes with each patient,” the document says.

M.G. resigned from her position halfway through her third day on the job. She and her husband both referred to Kim as a “pill pusher,” according to the document.

Three visits, nearly 1,000 pills prescribed

Dr. Kim's Adult Clinic in Tabor City. (Source: WECT)
Dr. Kim's Adult Clinic in Tabor City. (Source: WECT)

Authorities previously said patients would pay Kim a set amount of cash in exchange for prescriptions, which would then be filled at area pharmacies. But the newly-released documents explicitly show the exorbitant amount of pills Kim would prescribe patients from his Tabor City office:

  • April 25, 2018 – A confidential source (CS) was prescribed 100 oxycodone 15mg tablets and 60 oxycontin 30mg tablets for $200. The CS also purchased an ounce of marijuana for $360.
  • May 23, 2018 – CS was prescribed 120 oxycodone 20mg tablets, 60 oxycontin 30mg tablets, and 60 alprazolam 1mg tablets (Xanax) for $200. The CS also purchased an ounce of marijuana for $350.
  • June 27, 2018 – CS was prescribed 180 oxycodone 20mg tablets, 60 oxycontin 30mg tablets, and 90 alprazolam 1mg tablets for $200. CS gave Kim an additional $300 to write a separate prescription of 180 oxycodone 20mg tablets in his father’s name.

Cumulatively, the CS received prescriptions for 910 pills at a cost of $900. Additionally, the document lists five other instances between April 12 and June 28 where the CS purchased marijuana and other illicit substances from Thompson at her Stake Road home.

N.C. Medical Board takes action

Since their arrests, Kim and Thompson have remained in the Columbus County Detention Center under $5.5 million and $3.5 million bonds respectively.

Dr. Jong Whan Kim (left) and Tammy Lynn Thompson (right) (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)
Dr. Jong Whan Kim (left) and Tammy Lynn Thompson (right) (Source: Columbus County Sheriff's Office)

During the June news conference, David said his office was working with the state medical board to revoke Kim’s license, and a representative from the board was present for the couple’s first court appearance on July 2.

Since that time, the medical board and Kim have entered into an interim non-practice agreement, citing his arrest on allegations of inappropriate use and distribution of controlled substances. The agreement prevents Kim from practicing medicine until the board says otherwise.

“Dr. Kim admits that the conduct referenced in the criminal charges as described above, if true, would constitute unprofessional conduct… and grounds would exist for the Board to suspend, revoke or limit Dr. Kim’s license or to deny any application he might make in the future,” the agreement, filed on Sept. 5, states.

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