Former West Side cop pleads to misdemeanor charge

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Sun-Times file photo

A run of bad luck continued Wednesday for a former Chicago cop who solicited bribes from a liquor store owner who also was an FBI informant.

Wearing sweat pants, a hoodie and a surgical boot on one foot, Ray Ramirez shuffled out of U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman’s courtroom after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges for accessing a police database in 2013 to run a license plate check for the informant. In addition to soliciting cash handouts and offering to access police records in exchange for cash, prosecutors also said Ramirez took chips and soda without paying.

Through his attorney, Ramirez apologized for his disheveled appearance. Ramirez recently had surgery related to diabetes and was “covered with stiches,” lawyer Michael Leonard said. Ramirez will begin chemotherapy for colon cancer next week, Leonard said.

“We would prefer to go to trial, but with (Ramirez’s) physical condition that’s impossible,” Leonard said outside the courtroom.

Court records show Ramirez filed for bankruptcy in 2012, around the time the informant went to his FBI handlers with complaints that Ramirez was soliciting cash handouts and “loans” ranging from $20 to $1,000. The criminal complaint notes that bank records showed Ramirez personal accounts were down to pennies on some of the dates when he solicited cash.

Ramirez faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison when he is sentenced in March. Leonard said he would ask for no jail time for the former cop and that the store owner was a bad witness, not least because he had received $22,000 from the government over five years of working as an informant. The criminal complaint against Ramirez states the shop owner received payment only for his expenses for his cooperation with the investigation of Ramirez.

Prosecutors said Ramirez took a $200 bribe to run a license plate number for the store owner in an FBI sting operation that lasted months in 2013. Prosecutors also allege Ramirez asked for cash in recorded conversations with the informant.

Leonard said Ramirez denied the bulk of the misconduct allegations, and that Ramirez only took items, such as chips or soft drinks, when shop owners offered them, though he admitted taking anything violated department policy.

“The fact that he had a couple of bags of chips isn’t a federal crime. He never took anything he wasn’t allowed (by store owners) to take,” Leonard said. “He was out doing what he was supposed to be doing, getting out and talking to the people in his district.”

Ramirez retired with more than 20 years with the department, and a misdemeanor conviction will not prevent him from drawing a pension, Leonard said.

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