Deputies raid doctor’s office in TC

Dr. John Whan Kim

By DEUCE NIVEN

tribdeuce@tabor-loris.com

Afternoon update

     “Substantial active prison time,” is facing a Tabor City physician and his girlfriend assistant accused of trafficking in prescription medications and street drugs from their office and home, Assistant District Attorney Heath Nance said Friday.

     Columbus County Sheriff’s Office Vice-Narcotics detectives served search warrants on both properties Friday morning, capping a six-month investigation prompted by citizen complaints, District Attorney Jon David and Sheriff Lewis Hatcher said during an afternoon news conference.

     Dr. John Whan Kim, 71, and his assistant and girlfriend Tammy Lynn Thompson, 52, were in the office on East 5th Street in Tabor City as deputies rushed in Friday morning, Nance said.

Tammy Lynn Thompson

     Dr. Kim was still being processed at the Sheriff’s Office at mid-afternoon Friday, Nance said. Thompson had been booked at the jail. Both face charges related to opioid medications and marijuana, in warrants obtained by detectives.

     Dr. Kim is charged with unlawfully prescribing controlled substances with no medical purpose and conspiracy to sell and deliver marijuana, two counts each of conspiring to traffic opium and over prescribing controlled substances, and three counts of maintaining a dwelling, both his office and home on Stake Road, Tabor City, for the purpose sale and delivery of controlled substances.

     Thompson is charged with conspiracy to sell and deliver marijuana, three counts of trafficking opium or heroin, five counts of maintaining a dwelling for the sale and delivery of controlled substances, and six counts each of sale and delivery of marijuana and possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana.

     Both are also charged with sale and delivery of controlled substances within 1,000 feet of a school. Both the medical office on East 5th Street and Dr. Kim’s house are within sight of Tabor City Elementary School, the office separated from the campus by a chain link fence.

     Bond for Dr. Kim was set at $5.58 million on Friday, Thompson’s bail totaled $760,000. Both were expected to make their first appearance before a judge Monday.

Sheriff Lewis Hatcher, Assistant District Attorney Heath Nance, SWAT team members and other deputies at the offices of Dr. John Whan Kim Friday morning.

Busy office, drug filled home

     The waiting room in the medical office “was loaded,” when detectives, deputies and SWAT Team members arrived in a long caravan of marked and unmarked sheriff’s vehicles Friday morning.

     Dr. Kim’s “lacked the normal examination equipment that you usually see in a physician’s office,” Sheriff Hatcher said. “The exam rooms did not have examination tables only a chair for the patient to sit in. Patients would pay a set amount in cash to see Dr. Kim in exchange for a narcotics prescription in their name. The patient would then have the prescription filled at an area pharmacy. The office had numerous waiting rooms and they were all full when Detectives executed the search warrant.”

     If the office seemed less like that of a doctor, his home contained numerous medications, Hatcher said, including Tramadol, morphine sulfate, Hydrocodone, and Methadone Hydrochloride, and marijuana.

     Narcotics found in the home “were packaged and ready to sell; some items were packaged in unmarked medication bottles for easy distribution.

     “Detectives seized multiple related records from Dr. Kim’s office.”

Community involvement

     Patients were allowed to leave after they were identified, and checks were made on any outstanding warrants, Nance said.

     Community involvement was the key to making these cases, Nance said. Citizens made the sheriff’s office aware of issues at the medical office as early as January.

     “It’s an example of what a community can do,” Nance said. “They called and reported, people were observant, that allowed us to do our jobs.”

     Nance said the investigation is ongoing.

     Look for more on this story as events warrant, and the wrap-up in the next Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.

Initial post

     Sheriff’s deputies, including narcotics and SWAT team members, surrounded and emptied the offices of Dr. John Whan Kim in Tabor City Friday morning.

     Sheriff Lewis Hatcher and Assistant District Attorney Heath Nance were also present, and said a news conference in Whiteville later in the day will disclose details on the raid.

     More than a dozen patients filed out of the offices and left on foot as sheriff’s vehicles shut down vehicle entrances, with a block of East 5th Street from Pireway Road to near Wall Street shut down.

     Dr. Kim, who formally operated a clinic in Bladen County, has been in Tabor City for about a year. He purchased the building that once housed a local attorney’s office, and has recently bought two nearby homes and a former medical office complex on Pireway Road, Tabor City Police Chief Donald Dowless said.

     Dr. Kim, who is 71, is certified to practice both internal and geriatric medicine, his website says. He is licensed to practice medicine in North Carolina and Wisconsin.

     State medical boards in both states filed disciplinary notices against Dr. Kim in 2013, the doctor not contesting allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with patients, those board records show.

     Look for more on this story as events warrant, and the wrap-up in the next Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.