TALK about a crime that’s hard to swallow!

While being booked into jail on burglary charges, a Florida man with an appetite for trou­ble was caught hiding contraband …in his stomach!

Cops say the thief swallowed two stolen necklaces right before he was brought to the slammer.

JOSEPH BRAVO RAMOS, 21, of Clearwater, was arrested in De­cember after being pulled over for reckless driving. Cops quickly dis­covered that the Chevy Tahoe he was in had been reported stolen during a burglary the previous day. And he got into even more trouble when he was X-rayed by a full-body scanner, similar to the type used at airports around the country, while being processed at the Pinellas County Jail.

The X-rays showed an unusual dark mass in Ramos’ stomach, which medical personnel deter­mined had to be removed surgically.

Ramos was transferred to a local hospital, where surgeons performed the op­eration. To their surprise, when they opened Ramos up, they found a trea­sure trove of loot.

Incredibly, when Ramos awoke from surgery and was questioned about the necklaces that had been removed from his gut, the bungling burglar insisted they belonged to him.

“Anybody’s going to question that,” said Pinellas County Sher­iff Bob Gualtieri. “If they’re your chains, why are you swallowing them? And then when they were re­moved, the victim identified them.”

Indeed, detectives took the necklaces to the home of the woman who’d been burglarized. She recognized them immediately and said they’d been missing since the break-in.

“It had to be pretty uncomfortable going down,” noted the sheriff. “I’m not exactly sure how you do that. But I’m surprised he didn’t choke or something.” Ramos now faces charges of grand theft, bur­glary and tampering with physical evidence.

The not-so-cunning criminal might have gotten away with stealing the jewelry if not for the $215,000 scanner the Pinellas County Jail installed last June. The high-tech machine is able to detect several types of contraband, from metals and plastics to pills and other drugs.

It’ used, along with pat-downs and occasional strip searches, on inmates entering the jail.

“There are certain areas of the body you can’t search,” added Sheriff  Gualtieri, “especially when people ingest things…or insert things in certain places.”