‘Middle Men’ Producer Puts His Real-Life Porn Customers in a Squeeze

Investigation: Christopher Mallick's online porn business faces uncertainty after Visa blocks access to his virtual credit cards

Paramount Pictures’ “Middle Men” was a flop last month despite positive buzz. But that was the least of the problems for producer Christopher Mallick, who based the film on his own ecommerce online porn business – which is now in trouble, a Wrap investigation shows.

As owner of the Visa-branded ePassporte, Mallick (pictured with "Middle Men" star Luke Wilson) is the middle man handling transactions in the tens of millions of dollars for an extensive network of online pornography sites.

In a rare move, Visa International has suspended transactions with the virtual payment system, an equivalent to Paypal.

And it's not the first time ePassporte has hit a roadblock. In 2008, Mallick was forced to stop processing its gambling transactions in the wake of a widespread federal investigation of the industry.

Visa’s action last week blocked online porn enthusiasts when they attempted to use what amounts to a prepaid cyber credit card.

According to frantic chat-room postings, ePassporte account holders worldwide also have been blocked from accessing untold sums of cash through ATMs using pre-loaded cards. One ePassporte customer purportedly has $248,758.38 in his account.

Although ePassporte is most identified with the porn industry, its customer base extends well beyond to other businesses and ordinary citizens, some of whom have complained about being unable to pay rent or conduct other routines of daily life without access to cash.

Some ePassporte account members fear he has absconded with their money. Oddly, others see the development as a publicity stunt to promote “Middle Men” — an unlikely scenario with the movie movie having vanished from theaters after an opening box office of $325,641 last month.

"Maybe Mr. Mallick is doing a … good trick to create [noise] around his name so more people…watch his movie," wrote "Firestarter9."

Mallick announced last week on ePassporte that Visa had pulled the plug. “[W]e were notified that effective immediately, Visa International has suspended our banking partner’s ePassporte Visa program,” Mallick wrote, calling development “drastic” and “unconscionable.”

His next appearance was a posting Thursday on the GoFuckYourself.com message board — in which he sought to inspire confidence in the company.

“First, be assured that your funds are fully safe and protected,” he wrote. “You are owed that and it will be fulfilled. The funds are secure.”

ePassporte is consumed with complex preparations to return customers’ cash, not “hiding,” “avoiding” or “stringing you along,” he added. “We too have funds that are stuck in the system, as well as massive costs of operation without any income.”  

He said he hadn’t seen the suspension coming “and as of today we still have received no good basis for it.”

In his initial statement, Mallick implied that Visa’s action involved unspecified issues between the credit-card company and the bank through which ePassporte operates — St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank.

But in a statement to the web-security news blog KrebsonSecurity.com, Visa's technology company said it blocked ePassporte “at the request of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank … to address certain program deficiencies.”  

A Visa spokesman declined to elaborate when contacted today by TheWrap. Officials of the Caribbean bank didn’t respond to messages.

As Mallick’s company comes under scrutiny, so, too, does his fresh Hollywood face.

Thanks to “Middle Man,” Hollywood’s familiarity with Mallick's background apparently extends no further than his central role in porn. But the filmed account omitted several colorful footnotes. 

A Texas native, Mallick is the son of George A. Mallick, a Fort Worth oilman whose undisclosed financial ties factored into the downfall of Jim Wright, the former U.S. Speaker of the House.

In the mid-1990s, SAM Group, a health financing company which Mallick founded, filed for bankruptcy. A related lawsuit revealed a checkered history of personal tax liens, judgements and lawsuits involving Mallick.

Next, he helped found PayCom, one of the earliest porn-billing systems and a pioneer in online-purchasing technology. Several years ago, the company clashed in court with MasterCard and lost in a case involving the billing of porn sites.

He launched ePassporte after splitting from PayCom. But his new company drew the attention of the U.S. attorney for Manhattan during a sweeping investigation of internet gambling.

After the company was advised of the probe, two years ago ePassporte ended business with poker sites. “Although we do not believe we have done anything illegal, we do not wish to be associated with anything that might be considered illegal by the United States government,” ePassporte wrote to one off-shore operator of one site.

Finally, last year, the U.S. Tax Court ordered him to pay more than $280,000 in taxes, plus almost $40,000 in penalties, after concluding he under-reported income in 2005 by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now his ePassporte customers are anxious to learn the naked truth from the middle man about their cash.