updated 7/19/2005 6:33:04 PM ET 2005-07-19T22:33:04

The founder of a company that runs answering services for doctors allegedly tried to destroy a competitor by hacking into the firm’s computer so that patients got a busy signal or heard moaning when they tried to call their doctors.

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Gerald Martin, 37, was charged with computer tampering and possession of a forged instrument. If convicted, he could serve up to seven years in prison.

Stuart Hayman, president of the Westchester County Medical Society, said the alleged crime “could have prevented thousands of patients from reaching their physicians in emergency situations.”

One patient in California had to be rushed to an emergency room after failing to reach a doctor because of the alleged interference, District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said Tuesday.

Martin allegedly hacked into the computer for three days in November. Patients either heard a busy signal or “groaning, moaning in a sexual nature,” Pirro said. Martin could not be reached for comment.

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