For more than a decade, Jared Fogle was the everyman who touted Subway sandwiches and represented a relatable role model for Americans struggling to lose weight. Now, he’s facing up to 12 1/2 years in prison for his involvement in a years-long scheme to sexually exploit children, he’ll have to pay $1.4 million in restitution to 14 victims, and his wife is divorcing him.
Between 2010 and 2013, Fogle, while traveling in New York City, paid to have sex with two teenage girls, according to a criminal complaint. The incidents occurred at the Plaza and Ritz Carlton Hotels, where Fogle was staying, often for business travel.
“Let’s call this what it is,” Josh J. Minkler, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “This is about using wealth, status and secrecy to illegally exploit children.”
Fogle admitted Wednesday that he knew that Russell Taylor, a former executive at Fogle’s Jared Foundation, which focused on inner-city kids, was sexually exploiting a 14-year-old girl in 2011, according to prosecutors. Instead of stopping the abuse, prosecutors say, Fogle chose to “receive and repeatedly view” the pornography Taylor produced of the girl. Taylor targeted a total of 12 children between ages 9 and 16, none of whom knew they were being filmed, prosecutors say.
Fogle, 37, will plead guilty to one count of distribution and receipt of child pornography and one count of traveling to engage in unlawful sex acts with minors, according to documents released Wednesday by federal prosecutors.
Fogle appeared Wednesday before a federal judge to hear the charges and was released on home detention with GPS monitoring.
“I think he’s probably going to stay around, but if not, we’ll find him,” Steven DeBrota of the U.S. attorney’s office said. “I don’t think Jared can flee very far without getting recognized.”
The public knows Fogle’s back story well – how he began as a 425-pound Indiana University student, dropped more than half his body weight on a strict diet of Subway sandwiches, and landed a job as the chain’s top pitchman. He began appearing in Subway commercials in 2000, after the story of his dramatic weight loss appeared in Men’s Health magazine, and he soon found himself at the center of one of the nation’s most successful and enduring advertising campaigns.
Fogle became crucial to Subway’s marketing. According to AdAge, sales fell 10 percent after ads featuring him briefly stopped airing in 2005. He was parodied by “Saturday Night Live” and “South Park.” He started his foundation to fight childhood obesity.
The “before and after” images of Fogle at his highest weight and after his Subway diet were a “very positive association” for the brand, Ira Kalb, assistant professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, told the Los Angeles Times last month.
Subway cuts ties
Shortly after the announcement, Subway said on Twitter that it considered Fogle’s actions “inexcusable” and that they “do not represent our brand’s values.” The restaurant chain said Tuesday it had formally ended its relationship with Fogle.
In a statement, Fogle’s attorney, Jeremy Margolis, said that his client would plead guilty to all charges and had begun “significant psychiatric medical treatment and counseling” with an expert specializing in sexual conditions “to chart a course to recovery.”
“Jared Fogle expects to go to prison, he will do his time, he expects to get well, he expects to continue to make amends to those people whose lives he has affected,” Margolis said outside the courthouse Wednesday.
Fogle faces a minimum of five years behind bars and another five years of probation, according to the terms of a plea agreement released Wednesday. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed to ask for a sentence of no more than 12.5 years in prison. A judge will decide Fogle’s sentence.
Fogle also faces fines of up to $250,000 for each charge, and has agreed to pay $50,000 in lieu of forfeiting his cars and other property used in connection with the incidents. As part of the plea agreement, upon release Fogle would be required to register as a sex offender and comply with periodic polygraph tests and psychological evaluations, as well as consent to searches and ongoing computer and electronic device monitoring.
If Fogle had come forward with information about Taylor’s actions, prosecutors say he could have spared 11 other victims from abuse in Taylor’s suspected scheme. “We’re putting them in a position where they can get their lives together,” said DeBrota. Four of the 14 victims are now adults and “in desperate straits,” he said.
Fogle’s attempts to have sex with teenage girls had been going on for years, prosecutors say. According to interviews with one of the teens, Fogle first paid her for sex when she was 16 years old. After that, Fogle repeatedly asked the victim and other prostitutes to help arrange for him to have sex with minors as young as 14, offering them a “finder’s fee” for their assistance, the plea agreement says.
In text messages to the victim, prosecutors say, Fogle said that “the younger the girl, the better.”
Prosecutors say they have no evidence that Fogle used the Jared Foundation to find or target victims.
Fogle’s wife, Katie, filed for divorce Wednesday. “Obviously, I am extremely shocked and disappointed by the recent developments involving Jared,” she said in a statement released by her lawyer. The couple have children.