This is a story about how an architect of a planned Marion Barry sting ended up getting stung himself.

Allow me to present to some, and reintroduce to others, William H. Spivey Jr., a 16-year veteran special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Spivey is a G-man of special note, having been the lead investigator in the government's aborted plot to lure then-D.C. Mayor Marion Barry into a trap where he might be tempted to accept a bribe from an FBI-created job-seeker -- whose police lieutenant husband was already in deep trouble with the law.

Agent Spivey, about whom more will be said a little later, was a valued member of the FBI's public integrity section, a unit specially designed to catch important public servants doing things they ought not to do.

Today, Spivey is no longer doing battle with crime in all its ugly forms, having been placed on administrative leave in October by FBI superiors who no longer regard him as one of their boys.

Before explaining how agent Spivey got himself homebound, you may wish to know why the FBI seems to be on top of the Metropolitan Police Department like white on rice.

Corruption has worked its way into the ranks of our men and women in blue. Wait. That's not quite accurate.

The police department is roughly divided into three groups. Those who wear blue shirts to work, that is, uniformed sergeants and below; officers who work in plain clothes; and the white shirts -- lieutenants to chief -- big shots who show up late at crime scenes, strutting around, backs stiffened, chins in the air, as if they smell something foul.

The FBI has concluded that some in blue, plain clothes and white shirts are dirty. As in: given to unrestrained kleptomania.

As in:

Former D.C. police lieutenant Yong H. Ahn, once the MPD's top officer of the year, who's going off to jail after confessing in 1998 to taking $8,000 in bribes from illegal massage parlor operators.

Veteran officer Michael Cencich, now serving time following his 1998 arrest for shaking down houses of prostitution.

Former vice officer Wallace Najiy II, convicted of 10 felonies and sentenced to jail last week for obstructing justice and other crimes stemming from his return of a confiscated truck to a suspected drug dealer.

Jeffery Stowe, former lieutenant and onetime roommate of former police chief Larry Soulsby, who is now singing like a flock of canaries to the FBI and prosecutors following guilty pleas for extortion and other charges.

But the topic isn't dirty cops, about which the press could and should report more extensively.

This is about how a Barry stinger became a stingee.

Spivey missed out on the chance to sting the former mayor in the spring of 1998 -- once word leaked that undercover FBI snitch Lt. Ahn had been busted. The FBI then assigned Agent Spivey to a new case: that of arrested plainclothes officer Michael Cencich, cited above.

Prosecutors and the FBI gave Cencich a chance to go undercover, under Agent Spivey's "control," to ferret out other shakedown artists on the police force. Cencich snapped it up.

During the summer of 1998, Cencich and Spivey worked together like beavers but couldn't produce any cops extorting money from houses of prostitution (though Cencich developed information about dirty cops and crooked lawyers outside the District). In August 1998, however, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office hit pay dirt.

That's when Cencich, unbeknownst to his "control" officer, Agent Spivey, approached the prosecutors, through his lawyer, G. Allen Dale, to deliver some goods on Agent Spivey.

The following is pieced together from both the prosecutor's motion to the judge for lowering Cencich's sentence and a sentencing memorandum to the judge from Cencich's lawyer:

Agent Spivey's attraction for Cencich's wife, Suzann, began the day they met in lawyer Dale's office shortly after Cencich's arrest, Dale told the court. They soon began to communicate.

"In particular," wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Dubester, "Agent Spivey sent, through AOL, sexually explicit messages and sexually explicit photographic images, including what Spivey indicated were photographs of himself, to Suzann Cencich." Continuing, "Cencich produced to the government copies of the electronic exchanges, including the photographic images. In addition, he turned over tapes that he had surreptitiously made of certain telephone conversations between himself and Spivey, as well as Suzann Cencich and Spivey," Dubester told the court.

The prosecutor said they were especially drawn to "communications that Spivey made to Suzann Cencich, which indicated that Spivey may have sought sex or nude photos from Suzann Cencich, and in exchange offered to provide favorable treatment to Cencich in connection with his case."

Allegations of more explicit stuff were laid at Spivey's feet, words and phrases not taught at the FBI Academy, but this is a family newspaper. Armed with Cencich's charges, the FBI got busy.

At the bureau's direction, Cencich recorded seven telephone conversations with his unsuspecting "control" officer, Spivey. Cencich also wore a wire -- a hidden tape recorder and transmitter (the same tactic planned against Barry) -- while engaging in a face-to-face meeting with Spivey, a meeting that also was under FBI surveillance.

Spivey's attorney, William Moffitt, has another take on the matter.

In an interview yesterday, Moffitt said the FBI wanted to get Spivey for testifying in behalf of Lt. Ahn's motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Spivey, said Moffitt, knew that the FBI had not granted Ahn's request to have a lawyer present at his interrogation and was ready to say so.

Moffitt also said that Cencich set out to frame Spivey in the hope of currying the FBI's favor and getting a lower sentence. The FBI has a document containing information from Cencich's lips that indicated that he was engaged in a plot to frame Spivey, said Moffitt -- but the FBI secreted the document outside normal administrative channels, making it unavailable to the issuing magistrate at the time the FBI sought warrants to search Spivey's home and office.

And finally, Moffitt noted that Spivey is an African American and principal plaintiff in a class action suit alleging that the FBI has "engaged in a continuous and pervasive pattern of discrimination and harassment based upon race against African American agents."

Cencich got 15 months in federal prison, a more lenient sentence, for "helping the FBI rid itself of a bad law enforcement agent" in the words of prosecutor Dubester.

Well, the FBI isn't quite rid of Spivey. The Justice Department has declined to bring criminal charges against him, and his case is now awaiting administrative disposition at FBI headquarters.

Which raises this pithy observation: Agent Spivey, now in a tight spot, seems inclined to play the race card. If so, instead of arranging a sting against Marion Barry, the consummate race card player, perhaps Spivey should have sought a consultation.

Just a thought.