A Rockville man wanted in the kidnaping of his small daughter after being convicted of sexually molesting her was arrested in Gaithersburg shortly after midnight yesterday, and by afternoon he had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his conviction last November.

The 4-year-old girl, who had been abducted from a Scranton, Pa., day care center March 5, was found by Montgomery County police when they arrested John Wright Lourim Jr. By midday, the child was reunited with her mother, Carole Mozgo Lourim, who had made emotional appeals for the girl's safe return last week in newspapers and on television programs. Carole Lourim described the reunion with her daughter as one punctuated by hugs, tears and the girl's greetings to her grandmother, whose birthday was on Wednesday.

John Lourim's arrest capped an intensive police alert throughout the East Coast. FBI officials said yesterday that his elaborate plan to take his daughter had been drawn up over five months and included a "safe house" in Frederick, Md.

Lourim, 50, planned to escape to Mexico with $9,000 in cash and 100 gold Canadian Maple Leaf coins, they said.

He was arrested at a home on Club Lake Road, according to police. Eunice M. Hicks, who lives at the house, declined comment.

In court, Montgomery County Circuit Judge DeLawrence Beard sternly denounced Lourim for preying on "a particularly vulnerable victim, a child of tender years whose love and trust you betrayed." Lourim, who was convicted of two counts of sexually molesting his daughter, faced a possible maximum sentence of 35 years.

Lourim maintained his innocence in court yesterday.

Telling Beard he had a "twisted" image of Lourim's relationship with his daughter, Lourim asked the judge not to send him to jail. "She has a right to a father as does every child. I didn't do so well at it -- I'm not even good at being a criminal," Lourim said.

But in court yesterday FBI Special Agent Henry O. Gaidis detailed a plan hatched by Lourim and a woman "confederate" after his molestation conviction.

Lourim wanted to escape a prison term and abduct his daughter, Gaidis said, but the agent did not identify the alleged accomplice.

Gaidis said the woman rented a house in Frederick within weeks of Lourim's Nov. 15 convictions.

Beard issued a bench warrant for Lourim when he failed to appear in Circuit Court on Jan. 28 for sentencing on those convictions.

Lourim and his wife were separated more then three years ago. The sexual abuse occurred during the toddler's visits with Lourim as the couple waged a bitter custody and visitation rights battle, according to court records.

Gaidis testified that Lourim evaded law enforcement authorities from Canada to Virginia, traveling between the Frederick house and a motel in Greensboro, N.C. Then, the agent testified, a break came last Saturday when the woman flew back from North Carolina to care for her cats. Authorities approached the woman, who at first was uncooperative, Gaidis testified. Later, she revealed details of the abduction plot that led to Lourim's arrest.

Lourim secured several falsified drivers' licenses for himself and the woman and the birth certificate of a dead child in Frederick to be for his daughter, Gaidis said.

The woman waited outside the center while Lourim seized the child, Gaidis said.

No charges were filed yesterday in the child's abduction.