Plumber who found cash stashed in wall of Joel Osteen's church getting US$20,000 reward
Published Tuesday, December 7, 2021 11:24PM EST Last Updated Tuesday, December 7, 2021 11:24PM EST
Pastor Joel Osteen gives an interview at his Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017. Osteen and his congregation have set up their church as a shelter for evacuees from the flooding by Tropical Storm Harvey. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
The plumber who turned in hundreds of envelopes of cash and checks he found in a wall at televangelist Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church is getting US$20,000 for his good deed.
The find is believed to be connected to the 2014 theft of about $600,000 from the mega-church, according to the Houston Police Department.
Lakewood Church had put up the money as part of a $25,000 reward in the case, and then donated it to Crime Stoppers when the statute of limitations expired.
The case had gone unsolved until Justin found about 500 envelopes last month, while fixing a toilet in a public family restroom in the church.
"In 2016, Lakewood Church made a $20,000 charitable donation to Crime Stoppers of Houston to help solve this case and support them for all they do for the community. We are appreciative of the plumber, and we hope he pays the gift forward," the church said in a statement on Tuesday.
Crime Stoppers of Houston CEO Rania Mankarious told CNN the organization does not give rewards for finding stolen property, but the group's executive committee unanimously agreed Justin should have the money from Lakewood Church.
"What we are doing is passing a gift on because he is the rightful holder of that gift, and he's a good Samaritan. He did the right thing," Mankarious said.
Police were called in to investigate on Nov. 10, but news of the discovery did not become public until last Thursday, when Justin called into radio station 100.3 The Bull and told the story.
He called back Monday and shared more details about finding the envelopes.
"They didn't fall out in front of me, but they fell in the wall. Yeah, I could hear the commotion in the wall," Justin told The Morning Bullpen hosts. "I shined my flashlight in there, and you could see statements, some dollar bills, just random stuff in there."
In a statement on Friday, the Houston Police Department said an undisclosed amount of money -- including cash, cheques and money orders -- was inventoried, documented and then left with the church.
The stolen money was insured, and a church spokeswoman said the church has resolved the matter with its insurance company.
Mankarious said Justin was very quiet when she called him to let him know he'd be getting the money.
"He said, 'I can't thank you enough. I mean these are really hard times and I wanted to do the right thing and I did the right thing, but you know these are tough times for everyone and so this money is going to go a really long way,'" she said.