CHICAGO (AFP) - The longtime spokesman for the Subway fast food chain was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison on Thursday (Nov 20) for having sex with minors and possessing child pornography, prosecutors said.
Jared Fogle, a 38-year-old father of two, was famous in the United States as "the Subway Guy" after claiming he lost 90kg 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 in Taylor's home that he used to secretly film a dozen children aged nine to 16 in order to produce child pornography, court documents showed.
Prosecutors said Taylor used drugs, money and alcohol to induce the children to engage them in sexual acts.
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, many of whom he had met socially and knew by name.
Fogle agreed to plead guilty in August.
At the sentencing hearing, he 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 welcomed the sentence as a "clear message" to those who thought they could get away with exploiting children.
"The Jared Fogle chapter is now closed with the announcement of his sentencing and his removal from a free society," said Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter.
"But, tragically, we know sexual crimes against children won't end; there are others who think they won't be caught," he said in a press release.
"So with this announcement we also take the opportunity to encourage, in the strongest words possible, any past or current victims of unreported child sex crimes to seek help from law enforcement and bring these vile criminals to justice."
Fogle's plea agreement includes US$1.4 million (S$2 million) in restitution to his 14 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".
Fogle sobbed as he asked the judge to be lenient in sentencing and apologised for his crimes, the Indianapolis Star Tribune reported.
"Not a day will go by when I don't think about what I did to (the victims)," he told the court.
"Members of my family are also victims of my acts," he said, explaining that his former wife will now be a single mother.
Judge Tanya Walton Pratt interrupted him and said "you gave your wife US$7 million, so she'll be OK", the newspaper reported.