It was a neighbourly dispute over cladding that got way out of hand, with Danni Mu allegedly creating an alter ego and invoicing five other apartment owners more than $1 million for building work, a court has been told.
Mu, 63, is on trial at the Auckland District Court facing 12 dishonesty charges and one count of causing a loss to a body corporate to the tune of almost $20,000.
The Crown alleges that during a five year dispute with the body corporate of her Mt Eden apartment building, Mu fell behind on paying her levies and so ended up committing fraud.
Prosecutor James Angelson said during his opening statement Mu did not agree with the body corporate choice of replacement for the building's leaky cladding - it opted for Rockcote cladding but she wanted weatherboard.
"It's a case about a neighbourly dispute that got way out of hand".
Mu allegedly set up her own body corporate, attempted to recruit other apartment owners to it and stopped paying levies to the body corporate. Angelson said.
When her unpaid fees racked up to more than $19,000, the body corporate served Mu with a bankruptcy notice in September 2014 following a number of Tenancy Tribunal orders. She was also ordered to pay $6766 in court costs.
"What the defendant did next was rather quite extraordinary and also illegal," Angelson said.
According to court documents, Mu set up a company called "Its Normanby Mews Limited" and emailed the body corporate purporting to be Jennifer Wang saying Mu had paid the court costs to a bank account, which was not the one registered to the organisation.
And over February 1 and 2, 2015, Mu also allegedly emailed five other apartment owners pretending to be Wang, invoicing them for building works of varying amounts between $212,466.55 and $286,815.83.
The bank account provided was one owned by Mu.
And in April, under the guise of Wang, Mu allegedly instructed a lawyer to send out two more invoices to five people demanding they pay unpaid levies of up to $3888. Again, it was Mu's bank account attached to the invoices.
Angelson told the jury he plans to call a police expert who will prove Mu's fingerprints were the only ones on a document supposedly written by her alter ego, Jenny Wang.
"The Crown case is there's no Jennifer Wang. Jennifer Wang is the defendant."
However, Mu, who is defending herself, maintains Wang is real and told the court she acted within her rights as head of a body corporate.
"I am not Jennifer Wang. Jennifer Wang's signature here is not my signature. I didn't do a thing. I am innocent. Danni Mu is my name," she said.
The first day of trial got off to a rocky start with Judge Josephine Bouchier warning that bad manners would not be permitted in her courtroom and anyone who "indulges in them" would be removed.
The caution came after Mu threw legal papers on the ground which Judge Bouchier had instructed her to read and sign in accordance with her wish to represent herself.
Mu often interrupted proceedings with emotional outbursts, often impossible to understand, before Judge Bouchier reminded her of what was permitted under the Evidence Act and the order of court proceedings.
The trial continues.