Subway pitchman pleads guilty to US child sex charges

Former Subway sandwich chain pitchman Jared Fogle (centre) is led from federal court in Indianapolis, Indiana, in this file photo taken on Aug 19, 2015.
Former Subway sandwich chain pitchman Jared Fogle (centre) is led from federal court in Indianapolis, Indiana, in this file photo taken on Aug 19, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Chicago (AFP) - The longtime spokesman for the Subway fast food chain pleaded guilty on Thursday (Nov 19) to having sex with minors and possessing child pornography, local media reported.

Jared Fogle, a 38-year-old father of two, was famous in the United States as "the Subway Guy" after claiming he lost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) in college by eating healthily at Subway sandwich shops.

That all changed when police received a tip in April that Russell Taylor, the one-time head of Fogle's charitable foundation, was a pedophile.

Police found hidden cameras that Taylor had used to film a dozen children aged nine to 16 in order to produce child pornography beginning in 2011, court documents showed.

Text messages led them to Fogle, who did not produce the pornography but admitted to receiving it and failing to intervene to protect the sexually exploited children.

At a sentencing hearing in Indiana, Fogle also admitted that he offered a "finder's fee" to adult escorts who could connect him to young girls, including two aged 16 to 17 he paid to have sex with in New York.

Hundreds of photos and videos of more explicit, commercial child pornography were also recovered from his computer, prosecutors said.

"Yes, it is the truth, your honour," Fogle told the judge during a lengthy sentencing hearing, The Indianapolis Star reported.

He was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison. His lawyers had asked for a sentence of five years in prison while prosecutors had sought more than 12 years.

They also asked the judge to allow Fogle to have unsupervised visits with his two children, both of whom are under five, and noted that his crimes involved "adolescents," the Indianapolis Star reported.

Fogle has already paid $100,000 to 12 of the victims and gave prosecutors a $200,000 check for the other two victims.

His wife filed for divorce and Subway - with 44,000 outlets in 110 countries - has also cut ties with Fogle, who appeared in its ads for more than a decade - most famously with a pair of oversized "fat jeans."