Tyler Tysdal — who conned NFL quarterbacks, in-laws and other investors out of $46 million — was sentenced Thursday to six years in a state prison for two counts of securities fraud.
Tysdal, 51, had asked for probation. Prosecutors sought a sentence of six years in prison, the maximum possible sentence they could seek under a plea agreement they struck with Tysdal.
“Six years is a joke for this kind of behavior,” Deputy District Attorney Isaam Shamsid-Deen told the court, but recommended that maximum sentence nonetheless.
After the sentence was announced, an attorney for Tysdal asked whether he could be taken into custody at a later date. That request was denied. Tysdal gripped the hand of his wife Natalie, a former local TV news anchor, and then a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed Tysdal behind his back and removed him from the courtroom.
Tysdal agreed to hand over $2.1 million in restitution immediately. Under his plea agreement, his prison sentence was reduced from eight years to a maximum of six years if he could write a check for at least $2 million. Shamsid-Deen claimed Tysdal should have turned over more.
Before the sentence was handed down, Tysdal told the court that he was “deeply sorry for the harm I have caused.” He compared himself to King Midas, claiming that everything he touched turned to gold, and said that “rock star” mentality warped his interactions with investors.
“It was an absolute mistake but it was driven by thinking I had the Midas touch,” he said.
Tysdal portrayed himself as a well-meaning success story whose talents, much like Midas’ in the famous parable, led to catastrophe, noting that Midas harmed a daughter with his magic touch. Though he apologized several times, Tysdal implied he was also a victim of circumstance, and of his own triumphs, which led him to believe his investments would always pay off.
Tysdal’s attorney, Fredric Winocur, framed Tysdal’s behavior as that of a hot-shot investor who “went too far and flew too high” but has since matured and recognized he was wrong.
“He has lost everything. He has lost his reputation. He has lost every penny. He has sold his home,” Winocur told Judge Ericka Englert. “He has been humbled. He has been humiliated.”
Tysdal sold his home in Lone Tree late last month for $3.1 million.
Tysdal’s father and a former business partner also testified before the sentence was handed down. His father, Ralph Tysdal, said Tysdal “has always been honest, fair and humble.”
Shamsid-Deen painted a much different picture. He described Tysdal’s frauds as “a Ponzi scheme” and “a confidence game” that sought out “the country club investors, not the Sam’s Club investors.” He said that probation for Tysdal would “send the wrong message.”
Between 2011 and 2019, Tysdal and co-conspirator Grant Carter operated Cobalt Sports Capital and told investors the firm would make high-interest, short-term loans to entertainers and athletes. Seventy-seven investors sent about $46 million to Cobalt, according to Tysdal’s indictment.
Cobalt routinely lost money due to loan defaults, underperforming loans and poor business decisions, but Tysdal and Carter hid this information from investors. As a result, nearly all investors in Cobalt lost money and Tysdal was ordered to repay $18.5 million in restitution.
Victims of Tysdal and Carter included former University of Southern California quarterbacks Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel and Mike Van Raaphorst; NFL defensive end Everson Griffen; and Eric Karros, a former MLB first baseman and current baseball broadcaster.
“He’s pretty convincing, and that’s why I say that I think he’s a pathological liar,” John Woodward, a local attorney and Tysdal victim, said in an interview earlier this year. “To do what he’s been doing, you almost have to believe yourself.”
As part of a profit-sharing plan, employees at Woodward’s firm invested $250,000 in Cobalt, expected 10 percent returns, received rosy outlooks from Tysdal initially and then silence.
Woodward said he knew smart people who were investing in Cobalt at the time. “I’m ashamed I got bilked by him. I should have looked harder and longer but I did shirttail due diligence.”
In 2019, a Denver grand jury indicted Tysdal and Carter on 67 counts related to their Cobalt scheme: 64 counts of securities fraud and one count each of theft, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and violating the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act.
A year later, they were indicted on three more counts of securities fraud for a second and much smaller scheme, in which they ostensibly sought investment capital to fund the national expansion plans of a wine distribution company called Curious Cork Imports but lied about its worth and the returns that investors could expect. Three investors lost $500,000.
Last year, Tysdal and Carter each pleaded guilty to two counts of securities fraud and in exchange the Denver District Attorney’s Office dropped the other 68 charges against them. Tysdal’s sentencing was delayed for one year, in part to help him raise more restitution money.
Meanwhile, online, Tysdal’s reputation has appeared far rosier, due to an apparent campaign to modify search engine results through the creation of a network of websites.