Broward Circuit Judge Ronald Rothschild approved nearly $54.7 million in claims Tuesday by people who were bilked out of their money by disbarred Coral Springs, Fla., attorney Laura Hess in a debt settlement scam.

The claims were by almost 20,000 consumers who turned to Hess and a series of companies she oversaw for help managing credit card and other debts. Hess, who has been disbarred for five years, promised to cancel debts for pennies on the dollar but instead was accused of pocketing the money.

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