Crime & Courts

Ballantyne dentist must pay $864,000 to former practice, jury rules in embezzling case

A Ballantyne dentist was ordered by a jury Wednesday to pay his former practice $864,000.

The amount includes $171,314 that the jury determined Dr. Steven Ghim embezzled from the practice of Dr. Ramesh Sunar & Associates, according to the jury verdict form filed in Mecklenburg County Civil Superior Court.

Ghim also must pay Sunar & Associates $191,000 the jury determined he took from the practice without authorization, according to the verdict form.

The jury ordered Ghim to pay the practice $500,000 in punitive damages, court records show.

Ghim did not return a phone message from The Charlotte Observer later Wednesday.

The award of $500,000 in damages “sends a pretty strong message to someone who wants to do this,” Charlotte lawyer Fred Monroe, who represented Sunar & Associates, told The Charlotte Observer in a phone interview.

The civil case against Ghim was separate from a criminal one Mecklenburg County prosecutors pursued against the doctor but eventually dismissed, Monroe said.

In 2017, prosecutors charged Ghim with felony embezzlement of more than $100,000, The Charlotte Observer previously reported. The offense date was listed in court records as Feb. 5, 2011.

WSOC-TV reported in 2017 that Ghim was accused of embezzling $124,000 from his Blakeney practice for about 11 months between 2011 and 2012.

“It’s a business dispute,” Ghim told the Observer in 2017 when asked about the criminal charge. “It’s six years old.”

Meghan McDonald, spokeswoman for the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, said records were unavailable Wednesday to explain why prosecutors dismissed the criminal case. A search of electronic court databases by the Observer also failed to show why the criminal case was dropped.

Ghim has been a dentist since 1999, according to his website, DrStevenGhim.com. His practice is on Blakeney Professional Drive, off Ardrey Kell Road and Rea Road.

Ghim is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps, according to his website.

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