Plumber who found money behind wall of Joel Osteen’s church given $20K reward

Texas News

TODAY — Pictured: Joel Osteen appears on NBC News’ “Today” show — (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) — A plumber in Houston credited with finding “about 500” envelopes full of cash and checks inside a bathroom wall at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church is $20,000 richer thanks to a reward from Crime Stoppers of Houston.

“Evidence from the recovered checks suggests that the discovery was connected to the March 2014 theft” of roughly $600,000 from the church, according to a Crime Stoppers news release Tuesday. “HPD (Houston Police Department) is still investigating.”

The “good Samaritan” plumber stumbled across the hidden money on Nov. 10 during a renovation project, according to Houston police.

“I went to go remove the toilet and I moved some insulation away and about 500 envelopes fell out of the wall. I was like, ‘Oh wow,’” the plumber said on the Houston radio program, as first reported by KPRC.

Authorities are now investigating whether the find has anything to do with a 2014 theft at the megachurch, police confirmed. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan File)

The plumber also said he notified an employee at the church, who contacted the authorities. It’s not yet known exactly how much money he found behind the wall.

Earlier this week he told KPRC that he was “just a little upset” that no one had reached out to him from Lakewood Church. The plumber, who identified himself only as “Justin,” said he attended Sunday’s service at the megachurch hoping Osteen would mention his deed, but it never happened.

After the initial $600,000 theft, Crime Stoppers offered a standard $5,000 cash reward with the church adding an additional $20,000 for information leading to an arrest.

Two years later, with the case still unsolved, Lakewood Church decided to turn their supplemental reward into a charitable donation to Crime Stoppers of Houston.

On Friday, Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Manarious, who had been speaking with law enforcement officials about boosting the size of the reward for the plumber, got approval to do so.

“Crime Stoppers of Houston is a public safety organization that thrives on the public safety of all communities. We believe that it takes all of us, working together, to keep Houston safe and thriving. In 2014, Lakewood Church gave us $20,000 to work on this case. In 2016, they chose to gift us those funds for operations. Today, we are gifting that same about of money to this Good Samaritan and wishing he and his family a wonderful holiday season.”

Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious

The investigation was ongoing Wednesday, police said.

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