The Thunderbird Valley Scam


Charge: mail fraud. The government charged defendants with an elaborate land sale fraud involving Thunderbird Valley corporation, of which the defendants were stockholders, officers, and directors. The essence of the case against defendants was that they had double assigned mortgages to defraud investors and lenders. Defendants claimed they were unaware of any improprieties and that the defalcations shown by the government were inadvertent.

At trial the government offered the testimony of W, a postal inspector, that he had made a summary of records seized from the offices of Thunderbird Valley corporation that established 80 double assignments out of 260 files of transactions perused.

Is W's testimony admissible? What foundation must the government lay before this evidence is admitted? Must the government show it would be impossible, difficult, or simply inconvenient to produce the 260 files? Must the government show that the underlying, summarized documents are admissible? May W testify to what the summary shows, or must the summary itself be produced? Is the actual summary admissible as an exhibit? Does this make any difference to the jury? Does it make any difference if W is qualified as an expert? Must W be qualified as an expert? Is the government required to give advance notice to defendants that they intend to rely on a summary? Does notice obviate any of the necessary foundational requirements? Is there a sixth amendment problem in the use of summaries in criminal cases?

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