PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ A plumber is accused of trying to flush the competition by using call-forwarding to siphon off their customers.

Michael Lasch called Bell Atlantic and ordered an ``ultra call-forwarding'' service for phones listed in the names of at least five rival plumbing companies, police said.

Lasch used the service _ which allows people to forward calls from one telephone by punching in a number code from any other phone _ to intercept calls placed to the other plumbers, according to authorities.

Plumber Joseph Lucas said he ``probably lost thousands of dollars'' worth of business.

Lasch, 36, of Levittown, was charged with theft by deception, criminal attempt, unlawful use of a computer, criminal trespass and impersonating an employee. Lower Makefield Township police Sgt. Henry O'Brien said Friday that he expected additional charges to be filed.

Records show that Lasch started the scheme at least as early as Dec. 13, state Trooper Anthony Rhodunda said.

``It was kind of funny, around that time our workload dropped off. It was before the holidays and we just assumed it was that,'' said Kevin Glasson, owner of McIntyre Plumbing Inc. of Levittown, one of the victims. ``We don't know how we were really affected.''

In December, Glasson's accountant asked him why he hadn't returned a call, saying he'd left a message with a new secretary. Glasson said the company hadn't hired one. ``At that time it didn't really click,'' he said.

The scheme was discovered when a customer called Lucas Ltd. of Newtown on Dec. 27 to compliment him on work performed in her home over Christmas weekend.

Lucas told the woman that his men hadn't worked that weekend.

``He took only the better customers, refused some of my regulars who are calling me now and saying, `Forget it, we won't use you again,''' Lucas told The Philadelphia Inquirer

Glasson said that he and Lasch worked together years ago at another plumbing company before both went into business for themselves. He said Lasch also had worked with Lucas and that all the targeted plumbers knew the suspect.

State police would not say how many calls were diverted.

There was no comment Saturday from Bell Atlantic; calls to a company spokesman went unanswered.

Lasch was in Bucks County Prison in lieu of $50,000 bail. Court records show Lasch's plumbing business owes nearly $200,000 in judgments, the Inquirer reported.