By Jefferson Weaver
A Tabor City doctor with a history of reprimands has been arrested on charges he was operating an opioid distribution operation in Columbus and Bladen counties.
Jong Whan Kim, 72, and Tammy Thompson, 53, were arrested Friday on multiple felony charges. Thompson was the office manager and Kim’s reported girlfriend.
District Attorney Jon David said the pair were operating a “pill mill” from Kim’s office in Tabor City as well as several homes in the area. Sheriff Lewis Hatcher said the duo was identified by multiple complaints from citizens starting in January.
Kim was charged with multiple counts of unlawfully prescribing oxycodone without legitimate medical reasons; maintaining a dwelling for drug activities; conspiracy to sell marijuana; trafficking opiates; and conspiracy to traffic opiates. Kim was transported to Columbus Regional HealthSource while being processed at the sheriff’s office Friday afternoon, and his bond is still pending. His address was listed as 8100 Twisted Hickory Rd., Bladenboro.
Thompson was charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to sell and deliver marijuana; sale of marijuana; conspiracy to traffic opiates and trafficking opiates; maintaining a vehicle and a dwelling for drug activities; possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana; and sale and delivery of marijuana.
The pair was arrested Friday morning and Kim’s medical office in Tabor city raided by deputies, narcotics officers and Tabor City Police. A dozen or so patients were waiting in the office at 9 a.m., David said. They were escorted from the immediate area on foot.
“There is evidence to show this was a major opiate distribution operation,” David said.
The medical office, formerly a law firm, had no medical equipment, certificates, supplies or any of the typical ephemera of a doctor’s office, David and Hatcher said.
Kim was reprimanded by the N.C. Medical Board in 2013 for having improper relations with a patient. The reprimand, which he did not contest, came about after he allegedly treated a female patient in a motel room in Wilmington, and not reporting the treatment, according to the NCMB. He has also reportedly been cited by the South Carolina Medical Association. Details on that incident were not available Friday afternoon.
Kim previously provided geriatric care at Elizabethtown Nursing Center and other area facilities. He opened the office in Tabor City last year after closing an office in Elizabethtown, where he worked with Bladen Medical Associates.
David said that with the amount of pills flowing through Kim’s office, a major supply line has been dried up. He said authorities are concerned that the lack of readily available prescription opiates will drive the price up for many addicts, and encourage them to shift to heroin.
“This is the time you need to seek legitimate treatment options,” he said, noting a that a substance abuse contractor with the county’s new mental health provider, Trillium, is making services available immediately.
“Heroin is suicide,” David said. “It’s not an alternative. We will continue to push for larger bonds against heroin and opiate dealers, and we will continue to encourage addicts to get the help they need.”
Check back with NRcolumbus.com Monday for more on this developing story, and see Tuesday’s print edition for a full wrapup.