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Fraud allegations at center of oil spill hearing

Kevin Mcgill, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A federal judge has refused to halt payments from a BP fund to compensate deckhands and other seafood workers harmed financially by the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The oil giant sought the delay because of investigations into alleged fraud by a Texas lawyer.

BP argues the $2.3 billion it agreed to put into the oil spill seafood compensation fund was inflated, based on the belief that Mikal (MEYE'-kahl) Watts represented more than 40,000 clients.

BP claims that more than half of the Social Security numbers on Watts' client list were fake.

More than $1 billion of the fund has been distributed. BP wanted a second round of payments suspended.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier on Wednesday said a suspension was unnecessary because the second round of payments is months away.