A doctor was arrested on suspicion of illegally distributing drugs in what law enforcement officials call a “pill mill” scheme.
Columbus County District Attorney Jon David announced Friday that Dr. Jong Whan Kim prescribed numerous opioids and other drugs without a legitimate medical reason.
According to Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, the investigation began in January following several citizen complaints and anonymous tips. Detectives discovered Kim had been overprescribing medications to his patients for years.
During the investigation, investigators also learned Kim schemed with his office manager and girlfriend, Tammy Lynn Thompson, to distribute the drugs from Kim’s practice in Tabor City and other properties he owned. Thompson sold illicit substances — including high-grade marijuana, oxycodone, and hydrocodone — to undercover agents on numerous occasions, Hatcher said.
SWAT and VICE/Narcotics team members raided Kim's office at 211 East Fifth Street, located near Tabor City Elementary School, Friday morning, resulting in the arrest of Kim and Thompson.
"There were a number of people today in the waiting room at the time of the raid, who will take those prescriptions somewhere," said District Attorney Ben David. "So the second layer of this investigation is to figure out exactly where those pills are coming from."
During a search of Kim's residence on Stake Road in Tabor City, law enforcement found tramadol, marijuana, morphine sulfate, hydrocodone and methadone. Those drugs were packaged and ready to sell, according to a news release from the Columbus County Sheriff's Office.
The news release went on to say that patients would pay a set amount of cash to see Kim in exchange for prescriptions, which would be filled at an area pharmacy.
Kim was booked into the Columbus County Jail under a $5,580,000 bond and Thompson was booked under a $760,000 bond.
Kim is charged with:
Thompson is charged with:
All entrances to the practice were shut down Friday and patients were told to file out of the medical office.
David said he expects a “drastic” decline in the number of pills in the community because of the duo’s arrest, but that could open the door for an even bigger problem.
"Given the amount of pills this group was putting out on to our streets, we believe that the supply will be dramatically limited from this day moving forward," David said. “It’s our expectation that with the limited supply, the cost (of pills) will go up, and our concern is addicts will turn to heroin to serve their addiction.”
David also said his office will work with the state medical board to work toward getting Kim’s license revoked.
“This is certainly not a witch hunt directed toward the medical community,” David said. “But there are certainly bad apples who put profit over human life.”
According to the NC Medical Board's website, the board issued a consent order against Kim in 2013 while he was practicing geriatric medicine in Elizabethtown.
According to that order, the board received a complaint from one of his patients, who claimed he had an inappropriate relationship with her.
"In Feb. 2012, Patient A contacted Dr. Kim on his cell phone and told him that she had a burn that she would like to look at. Dr. Kim then met Patient A at a hotel in Wilmington, NC, and treated her in her hotel room for the burn. Dr. Kim failed to make any record of this treatment," the report said.
He was reprimanded as a result of this complaint.
Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.