BERLIN, N.H. (AP – Mill workers and former workers in the North Country are writing letters in hopes of seeing one of their former bosses sent to prison for a long time.

Mehdi Gabayzadeh is to be sentenced next month in federal court in New York state. He was accused of swindling banks, financial institutions and investors of nearly $300 million while he was chief executive officer of American Tissue Inc., once the nation’s fourth-largest maker of toilet tissue and other paper products.

The company’s failure caused mills in Berlin and Gorham, N.H., to close in September 2001, with hundreds of workers laid off. Another company has since bought the mills, which reopened in June 2002.

Gerard Coulombe, president of the mill workers’ union, said the union wants to make sure the judge understands how Gabayzadeh’s crimes affected individual workers and their families. Many workers got jobs back when the mills reopened as part of Fraser Papers, but Coulombe said many workers suffered major financial problems and stress and some lost their homes.

Gabayzadeh, 61, faces up to 60 years in prison. He is expected to be sentenced to between 12 and 20 years and his lawyer is asking for leniency.

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