ANNAPOLIS, JULY 16 -- A Prince George's County man who hired a hit man to kill his wife lost his bid today to make county police give back $4,000 he had set aside to pay for his wife's death.

Rodney M. Dabbondanza's plot to kill his wife was uncovered because of his poor choice of a hit man. His hired gun turned out to be an undercover Prince George's County police detective.

Dabbondanza pleaded guilty on May 14, 1985, to a charge of solicitation to murder his wife. Shortly after that, he launched an effort to reclaim $9,000 taken by police from Constance L. Lang, who was holding the money for Dabbondanza.

After a hearing in January 1986, Circuit Judge Audrey E. Melbourne directed county police to return $4,000 of the money while she determined what to do with the remaining $5,000, which was the amount that Dabbondanza had agreed to pay to have his wife killed.

In November, Judge Melbourne directed that all of the money be returned to Dabbondanza, but the county appealed the case to the Court of Special Appeals.

In its unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the appeals court said Dabbondanza was entitled to the return of all money except the amount he had given to Lang to pay the hit man. The court said he gave up control of that portion of the money and had no legal right to reclaim it.

Dabbondanza did win a small victory in the appeals court.

Because he had already paid out $1,000 as front money for the contract killing, the appeals court said county police could keep only $4,000 of the $5,000 still in their possession.

That means the other $1,000 will be returned to Dabbondanza.