A Great Neck doctor is facing criminal charges after authorities claim he stole personal and health information of nearly 97,000 patients by improperly accessing his former employer's computer system.

The Nassau district attorney's office said police arrested James Kessler Wednesday, charging him with unauthorized use of a computer, a second-degree count of unlawful duplication of computer-related material and petty larceny -- all misdemeanors.

Police gave Kessler, 38, a radiologist who had worked at Garden City-based NRAD Medical Associates, a desk appearance ticket that schedules him for a Jan. 6 court arraignment.

"He's going to enter a plea of not guilty," Kessler's attorney John Kase of Garden City said Wednesday. "We plan to defend the charges."

Authorities said between January and April, Kessler, then employed by NRAD, accessed the company's computer and duplicated protected information for tens of thousands of patients.

Patients who got letters from NRAD in June saying that a doctor had improperly accessed their information contacted authorities, the district attorney's office said.

The letters told patients that the breached information included names and addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and health insurance information, but also said there was no evidence that patients' financial information had been accessed.

NRAD told patients in June that the radiologist who had taken the information, whom the company didn't name, no longer worked for the practice.

A source with knowledge of the case said Wednesday that it appeared Kessler had been planning to use the information to start a competing business.

Authorities are alleging Kessler connected an external hard drive to his assigned work computer and copied patient information onto it from NRAD's network. After executing a search warrant, investigators allegedly found Kessler with a hard drive with the patient records.

NRAD's CEO Cinzia Lawrence said in a statement the company is working with law enforcement, adding "Protecting the privacy of our patients' personal information is vitally important to us."

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