Fraud allegations against Texas lawyer at the center of Gulf oil spill hearing


NEW ORLEANS — A federal judge has agreed to delay a lawsuit against a Texas lawyer accused by BP of falsely claiming to represent thousands of deckhands who lost money in the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier on Wednesday agreed to the delay while a criminal case against attorney Mikal Watts unfolds.

Watts’ lawyer said in court that Watts expects to know by June whether he will be indicted.

Barbier is also considering Wednesday whether he should halt distribution of money from a $2.3 billion fund for seafood industry workers until the court can determine the extent of the alleged fraud.

BP claims that more than half of the Social Security numbers on Watts’ client list were fake, inflating the size of the settlement fund.