CHICAGO (STMW) — A broke Chicago police who allegedly made a habit of helping himself to chips and soda without paying for them at a West Side liquor store found himself the target of an unusually sad federal sting.

Now Sgt. Ray M. Ramirez is looking at up to 20 years behind bars if he’s convicted of extorting the store’s owner in a series of petty scams, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

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The 49-year-old, who works in the Near West district, was a daily visitor at the store, where he’d show up in uniform and hang out for up to an hour and “openly take items in front of the store’s employees,” a federal complaint alleges.

Ramirez, whose bank account was often in the red, also targeted a convenience store where he openly stole Newport cigarettes, chips and laundry detergent, and asked store workers for small cash “loans” he didn’t fully pay back, it’s alleged.

But when a liquor store worker who was wearing a wire for the FBI asked him to run background checks and to supply him with police reports in March, April and May, Ramirez allegedly solicited bribes totaling $550.

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“We never talked, and I never did this for you,” Ramirez allegedly told the undercover informant on May 22. “I would lose my job and be fired.”

Speaking after Ramirez was released on bond following a brief appearance before a federal magistrate Monday, his attorney, Mike Leonard, said the “chips and soda” case was an overreach by prosecutors.

The informant who helped set up Ramirez had previously been paid $22,000 by the feds and had given unreliable evidence in a prior case, Leonard said.

Ramirez, of the 900 block of North Wood Street, has been stripped of his police powers, police spokesman Adam Collins said.

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(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)