CHRISTOPHER Saravello, a former Philly cop, was federally indicted yesterday for allegedly running an extortion scheme when he was still on the force.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said Saravello, 37, worked with three middlemen to allegedly shake down local drug dealers and drug buyers to the tune of $9,800 worth of drug money, Oxycontin and other narcotics.

City payroll records show that Saravello joined the police force in 2007. The extortion scheme ran between November 2011 and June 2012, when he was assigned to Chinatown's 6th District.

Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, said Saravello resigned when he was suspended with the intent to dismiss in August 2012 after he had been caught abusing prescription drugs.

According to the indictment, the arrangement worked like this: Saravello's middlemen would plan to buy or sell drugs to other individuals, and then feed the time, date and location to Saravello, who would show up in uniform and in a marked police vehicle.

Saravello would pretend to lock up his middlemen, and let the buyers and dealers go - but only after swiping their cash and drugs.

One of those middlemen, Robert Nagy, 26, was sentenced in July to 10 months behind bars for conspiring with Saravello. Nagy agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in their probe of Saravello.

Saravello, a bald and bulky man, dressed in a long-sleeved gray cotton shirt, sweatpants and white sneakers, sat with his hands cuffed behind his back in a federal courtroom yesterday afternoon.

As he waited his turn before a magistrate judge, he appeared unhappy and looked around the courtroom.

U.S. Magistrate M. Faith Angell granted a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlene Fisk to keep Saravello in federal custody until Friday so prosecutors can prepare for a hearing on whether he should be detained until trial.

Saravello was not asked to enter a plea yesterday. He will be arraigned tomorrow at his detention hearing.

Defense lawyer Craig Hosay, who was appointed to represent Saravello just hours before his initial appearance, declined to comment outside the courtroom.

Court records show Saravello has struggled with financial problems. The city sued him in 2007 for $1,056 in unpaid gas service, and two mortgage companies and a bank also sued him over unpaid bills, court records show.

- Staff writer Dana DiFilippo contributed to this report.