Famed Christmas light display ends with bitter divorce, criminal investigation
Plug pulled on Hyatt family Christmas in Plantation
PLANTATION, Fla. – For thousands in South Florida, the holiday season means a trip to the nationally recognized Hyatt Family Christmas in Plantation.
Now, that famous and controversial tradition -- which at its height included more than 200,000 lights, a makeshift Ferris wheel, and a giant Santa’s workshop -- has come to a screeching halt. Some called it beautiful, while others called it gaudy, but there’s no denying that the divorce of the couple who put on the display is ugly. It's now spiraled into a criminal investigation of Mark Hyatt, who also happens to be a sitting Plantation councilman.
"Probably September or October, they'll figure out why there’s nothing in the front yard," said an emotional Kathy Hyatt, explaining that, after more than 20 years, the family won't have a light display this year. "That’s what I'm gonna miss the most, is seeing everyone."
Kathy said her husband Mark abruptly left her in January, while the final light display was still up in the now ex-couple's sprawling yard of their million-dollar west Plantation Acres home. She said his exit came after a disagreement over their teenage son's education, but added that Mark Hyatt has never given her an explanation for leaving after 27 years of marriage. She said she blames it, at least in part, on his newfound power after winning the election in 2016 for the Plantation City Council.
She said it was shortly after he left the home that she realized something was terribly wrong.
"I got to the mail and there's a subpoena, and I'm like, 'What is this?'" she said. "It's from a bank in Miami ... and they're going to garnish our wages for a judgment. I don't know anything about (it)."
It turned out Mark Hyatt had secured a loan of about $30,000 in 2012. Kathy Hyatt was listed as a borrower on the note, which she purportedly signed. She claims she never signed a thing.
“That's not my signature,” she said. “ … It was like a double life.”
It gets worse. The loan went substantially unpaid, leading to a settlement agreement in the amount of $23,000. Again, her apparent signature was on the agreement, but she alleges it's a forgery. In court, Mark Hyatt's attorney and brother, Steve Hyatt, claimed he was representing Kathy. She said that never happened.
"There's a whole trial, court dates, multiple appearances that Mark and his brother said they were representing me," she said.
She hired her own attorney, Stephen Breuer, who testified in divorce court about the matter.
"She never signed the note. She never agreed to be liable. She never signed the settlement agreement," he said.
A judge vacated the order against her, and Mark Hyatt, who is a beneficiary on a multimillion-dollar family trust, paid off the full amount of the judgment in May. The state attorney's office confirmed it is currently investigating the alleged forgeries.
When asked in a deposition if he forged his wife's name on the promissory note, Mark Hyatt, through his attorney, pleaded the Fifth Amendment. He didn't answer any questions from Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman, only laughing when asked about his wife's allegation he was living a secret life.
Despite the multimillion-dollar trust, and the fact that they were partners in a realty company while married, Mark Hyatt pleaded poverty in court and asked for alimony from his wife. Judge Nick Lopane is expected to rule on that matter later next week.
"He's all I know, but yet I don't know him, so that is hard," Kathy Hyatt said. "I don't know why he couldn't be honest (with) me. We could have worked through this. Would I have been mad? Yeah, but we could have worked through it."
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