TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho man has been sentenced to nearly 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to three counts of attempted sexual abuse of a child under 16 that involved trying to lure children into his car.

Chad McLean, 41, of Caldwell was arrested in September after three Twin Fall girls told their parents a strange man tried to talk to them, the Times-News reported .

Police identified McLean as a suspect after he was arrested in Caldwell on similar allegations.

McLean entered his plea in April. He was initially charged with three additional counts of attempted kidnapping.

Judge Benjamin Cluff sentenced McLean on Monday to up to 37 1/2 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole after 18 years.

McLean's lawyer George Essma argued that his client should not be severely punished for something that did not happen.

McLean told police that he had spoken with the girls but wouldn't have allowed them to get into his car.

He did say that if a girl had accepted a ride, there would have been a 20 percent chance that he would have molested her, police said.

McLean also told police in an interview that just talking to the girls was sexually gratifying for him.

He apologized to the victims and the parents during the sentencing hearing.

"I should have taken more steps to make sure it didn't happen," McLean said. "I realize I need more treatment and I know I'm treatable."

Deputy prosecutor Trevor Misseldine asked Cluff to sentence McLean to at least 37 ½ years in prison, citing a pre-sentencing investigation that indicated a high likelihood that McLean would reoffend.

"Anything less than prison, I think, undermines this," Misseldine said. "These victims did not bring this on themselves. They shouldn't have to worry that a man like Mr. McLean is driving around stalking them."