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Philly man gets long prison term for home-invasion robberies of Asian business owners

Tyree Mansell was sentenced to more than 36 years in federal prison after committing four home-invasion robberies of Asian business owners in 2015.

Tyree Mansell, sentenced on Dec. 1, 2017, in federal court for four home-invasion robberies of Asian business owners in 2015.
Tyree Mansell, sentenced on Dec. 1, 2017, in federal court for four home-invasion robberies of Asian business owners in 2015.Read moreFile photo

A federal judge Friday sentenced a 38-year-old Philadelphia man to nearly four decades in prison for a 2015 string of home-invasion robberies that targeted Asian business owners and sowed fear among such merchants across the region.

"This defendant is a violent recidivist," U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker said in sentencing Tyree Mansell to 36 years and eight months in federal prison.

"It's important that he be deterred, and others" like him, the judge said. "The defendant has no respect for the law."

Just weeks after being released from prison in March 2015 for a similar home-invasion robbery, Mansell committed the four home-invasion robberies for which he was sentenced to Friday.

From April to June 2015, he and others went to the Philadelphia or suburban homes of the owners of a beauty-supply store in West Philadelphia; a Chinese restaurant in Upper Darby; a nail salon in Overbrook; and a Lansdowne tavern.

The victims were targeted because they were believed to keep cash in their homes and because they would be easy targets and would not report the crimes, Assistant U.S. Attorney Yvonne Osirim said.

Inside their homes, the victims were tied up and threatened at gunpoint, she said.

Another man, Sterling Wallace, 28, pleaded guilty to participating in the four home-invasion robberies. His brother, Jamain Wallace, 27, participated in one, to which he pleaded guilty. They are to be sentenced Dec. 13.

Mansell's 17-year-old nephew acted as a lookout in three robberies. His case was handled in Delaware County.

Osirim, who described Mansell as the leader, read several victim-impact statements in court.

One elderly man, who had come to the U.S. from South Korea, described living in a quiet Montgomery County neighborhood until he was terrorized April 20, 2015, by Mansell and the elder Wallace, who pushed him, tied him up, then stole the $2,000 he had been saving to visit his homeland.

"Their threatening eyes and smiling faces when I first opened the door haunted me," he said in the statement.

Two other women, in separate robberies of their Upper Darby and Philadelphia homes in May 2015, described in statements how they have lived in fear since Mansell and Sterling Wallace terrorized and held them at gunpoint while they stole cash and other items from their homes.

In a June 2015 home-invasion robbery in Delaware County, a 17-year-old boy was pistol-whipped by Sterling Wallace, according to court documents. The boy's mother, in a statement also read by Osirim, said she initially thought her son was going to die and asked the judge to give Mansell "the longest sentence possible."

Victim-impact statements also were submitted by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania and the Greater Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association, which described a trend of Asian business owners being targeted because criminals believe they don't speak English well and will not testify in court.

All the victims in the 2015 home-invasion robberies testified against Mansell in his July trial. He was convicted of conspiracy, committing the four robberies, and possessing a gun in one. Prosecutors, however, argued that according to the victims' testimonies, he had a gun or knew that a codefendant had one in all of the robberies.

Defense attorney Kevin Harden Jr. told the judge that "there is not much anyone is going to say positive about Mr. Mansell" and acknowledged that "the facts of these cases are horrendous," but noted that no one was killed. He said Mansell was under the care of the city's Department of Human Services at age 10.

Mansell, dressed in a forest-green prison jumpsuit, declined to comment.

Mansell had been released from federal prison in March 2015 after doing time for a 2010 home-invasion robbery of a Delaware County businessman.

About 2:30 a.m. Aug. 8, 2010, he and two other men, Terrance Downing and Nyfis Toppings, had broken into the Havertown home of the family of an Upper Darby beverage store owner, demanding money from the terrified victims and stealing about $200,000 from the house. Mansell, who was convicted on conspiracy and robbery charges, was later sentenced by another federal judge to five years behind bars.