COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Prosecutors in Columbus County say a Tabor City doctor and his girlfriend were illegally distributing thousands of pills a day and made upwards of $3 million running an extensive "pill mill" operation out of their offices.
Dr. Jong Whan Kim, 59, and Tammy Lynn Thompson, 53, were both arrested last Friday following a raid of their Tabor City office by the Columbus County Sheriff's Office's SWAT and Vice/Narcotics teams.
District Attorney Jon David said at a news conference following the bust that the pair were overprescribing medications to patients without legitimate medical reason for years.
Kim and Thompson made their first appearances in a Columbus County court Monday afternoon.
Prosecutors said the pair was seeing around 80 patients a day and required all of them to use cash. Kim and Thompson were illegally distributing upwards of 9,600 pills while making over $16,000 a day, prosecutors said.
(Editor's note: Due to an error from prosecutors in court, a previous version of this story said they made $96,000 daily.)
During the last six months of the investigation, prosecutors alleged the pair made over $3 million while distributing a staggering 1.7 million pills to patients.
"All the facts you provided are false. We never saw more than 36 patients a day. Just check my computer, everything you said is false," said Kim during Monday's court appearance. "I'm a doctor that helps my older patients, many of them hurt their backs and I understand people's pain, so I came back to work to help my geriatric patients."
Prosecutors sought to keep the multi-million dollar bonds for both Kim and Thompson, telling the judge they don't want the pair using drug money to make bail.
The judge upheld their current bonds which are $5.5 million for Kim and $3.5 million for Thompson.
A representative from the North Carolina Medical Board was present during today's court hearing and sought a license surrender from Kim. The representative asked the judge if they could speak with Kim in a holding cell.
According to Columbus County Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, the investigation into Kim began in January following several citizen complaints and anonymous tips.
During the investigation, investigators learned Kim schemed with his office manager and girlfriend, 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 [Friday] in the waiting room at the time of the raid, who will take those prescriptions somewhere," said District Attorney Jon David. "So the second layer of this investigation is to figure out exactly where those pills are coming from."
Authorities said there was no medical equipment or examination tables inside the patient rooms at Kim's Tabor City office at the time of the raid. There was simply a chair for the patient to sit in.
Patients would then pay a set amount of cash to see Kim in exchange for prescriptions, which would be filled at an area pharmacy.
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.
Kim and Thompson face an extensive list of charges including trafficking opium/heroin, selling a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, and possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana.
David said his office will work with the state medical board to get Kim's license revoked.