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‘Pill mill’ doctor sentenced to 78 months

John Whan Kim


     Nearly four years after his arrest on allegations of running a “pill mill” from his medical office in Tabor City, John Whan Kim was sentenced Thursday to serve 78 months in federal prison.

     Kim, 75, was sentenced following a Dec. 28, 2021 guilty plea to charges of conspiracy to unlawfully distribute oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone, and marijuana; multiple counts of unlawful dispensation and distribution of oxycodone; and distribution of marijuana and aiding and abetting,” said a news release from Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

     Kim is required to surrender all medical licenses and is prohibited from ever practicing medicine again, the news release said.

     Kim and co-defendant Tammy Thompson were charged jointly in multiple indictments. She pled guilty to “multiple counts and is scheduled to be sentenced later this year,” the news release said.

Investigators at the offices of John Whan Kim on June 29, 2018. (Deuce Niven, TLT)

‘Pill mill’

     Kim opened his adult care physicians’ office on East 5th Street in Tabor City late in 2017, relocating from Elizabethtown, and quickly being noticed by Vice/Narcotics Detectives at the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney Jon David said following the arrests of Kim and Thompson on June 29, 2018.

     David described the operation as a “pill mill.” Federal prosecutors who eventually took over the case said Kim “was forced to resign from the medical practice where he was previously employed due to concerns over his prescribing practices, particularly opioids,” prior to opening his office in Tabor City.

     “Kim unlawfully and improperly prescribed opioids and other controlled substances to ‘patients’ who paid $200 cash at each appointment,” the news release said. “The investigation revealed that Kim often failed to meet the basic standards of legitimate medical care.

     “Kim wrote controlled substance prescriptions to virtually every patient he saw, often despite not having a patient’s prior medical records, not conducting a real physical examination or considering alternative treatments, and often despite having evidence of patient misuse and diversion.”

     Look for more on this story in the next Tabor-Loris Tribune in print and online.