Malik Snell was an 11-year veteran police officer assigned to the 18th District in West Philadelphia until shortly before Christmas last year.

Then he was arrested on charges of taking part in a home invasion. Now he faces serious federal firearms charges that could lead to a life sentence.

A federal grand jury yesterday indicted Snell, 35, and two others on charges that they took part in a home invasion in Pottstown on Dec. 16.

After his arrest on local charges just after the robbery, Snell was suspended from the department for 30 days with an intent to dismiss.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Curtis R. Douglas said the case seemed more appropriate for a federal prosecution. "We thought it was a good case to try federally," he said yesterday.

Douglas said that if convicted of the most serious charge - carrying a firearm during a crime of violence - each of the men could be sentenced to up to life in prison.

According to the indictment, Snell, along with Tyree Aimes, 24, and Stephon Gibson, 21, both of Philadelphia, went to an apartment in Pottstown where they believed a drug dealer stored the proceeds of his sales.

Snell drove Aimes and Gibson to the apartment and was armed with a loaded semiautomatic handgun, the indictment stated. The three tried to rob the occupants but were unable to find the drug money and left, authorities said.

Snell and Aimes allegedly fled but returned to look for Gibson. They encountered police, who followed them on a high-speed chase, authorities said.