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Judge refuses to suspend oil spill settlement payments

NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge has rejected BP’s latest request to suspend settlement payments to Gulf Coast residents and businesses while former FBI Director Louis Freeh leads an independent investigation of the program, which compensates victims of the company’s 2010 oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier’s order today says an internal probe by the claims administrator’s office didn’t find credible evidence of fraud involving employees of the settlement program’s Mobile, Ala., claims center.

BP said it received a tip that someone who worked at the center helped people submit fraudulent claims in exchange for some of the settlement money.

In July, Barbier rejected an earlier request by BP to suspend payments after appointing Freeh to investigate possible misconduct by a lawyer who worked on the settlement program.

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