Money Found by Plumber at Joel Osteen’s Church Is Tied to 2014 Burglary, Police Say

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The find was revealed erstwhile the plumber called into a Houston vigor amusement connected Thursday.

Money precocious    discovered successful  a partition  astatine  Lakewood Church successful  Houston is believed to beryllium  tied to a 2014 burglary astatine  the religion  successful  which hundreds of thousands of dollars successful  currency  and checks were stolen from a safe.
Credit...Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Published Dec. 3, 2021Updated Dec. 4, 2021, 12:28 p.m. ET

Seven years ago, Lakewood Church, the Houston megachurch led by Joel Osteen, the salient televangelist, reported that $200,000 successful currency and $400,000 successful checks had been stolen from a religion safe.

Last month, the wealth whitethorn person been discovered — not by detectives oregon religion personnel, but alternatively by a plumber fixing a toilet wrong a religion bathroom.

The plumber revealed the find connected Thursday erstwhile helium called into a Houston vigor show.

“There was a escaped toilet successful the wall, and we removed the tile,” helium said connected 100.3 FM’s greeting show. “We went to spell region the toilet, and I moved immoderate insulation distant and astir 500 envelopes fell retired of the wall.”

His reaction? “Oh, wow.”

The plumber said helium contacted a attraction supervisor and past gave the religion the envelopes. On Friday, the Houston constabulary confirmed that the wealth appeared to beryllium connected to the 2014 theft.

In a statement connected Twitter, the section said that officers responded to a study of spot discovered astatine the religion connected Nov. 10 and were told by religion members that a “large magnitude of money, including cash, checks and wealth orders” had been recovered wrong a partition during a renovation project.

Burglary and theft investigators responded and an undisclosed magnitude of wealth was inventoried, documented and near successful the custody of the religion since it had been recovered connected Lakewood’s property, the constabulary said.

“Evidence from the recovered checks suggests this November lawsuit is connected to a March 9, 2014, theft study of undisclosed amounts of wealth astatine the church,” the constabulary said, adding that the probe was continuing.

In a statement, Lakewood Church confirmed the discovery.

“Recently, portion repair enactment was being done astatine Lakewood Church, an undisclosed magnitude of currency and checks were found,” the religion said. “Lakewood instantly notified the Houston Police Department and is assisting them with their investigation. Lakewood has nary further remark astatine this time.”

Mr. Osteen is among the country’s best-known televangelists, and his church, which holds services successful the erstwhile Compaq Center, erstwhile location to the Houston Rockets, seats astir 16,000 people. Before the pandemic, the religion had been drafting an mean of astir 42,000 radical to services each week, according to a religion spokesman.

The 2014 theft from the church’s harmless was discovered by a religion employee, a Houston constabulary spokesperson told The Houston Chronicle that year.

Lakewood Church said successful a connection astatine the clip that the “funds were afloat insured, and we are moving with our security institution to reconstruct the stolen funds to the church,” the paper reported. The religion and Crime Stoppers of Houston had offered $25,000 for accusation that led to the apprehension of those liable for the theft, according to The Chronicle.

The plumber, who identified himself lone arsenic Justin, revealed that helium had recovered the wealth erstwhile helium called “The Morning Bullpen with George Mo and Erik” connected Thursday.

The hosts had asked callers to stock stories of the invaluable things they had recovered and had fielded calls astir a mislaid wedding ringing and a $100 measure erstwhile they heard from the plumber, according to George Lindsey, a big of the show.

“It was the astir unsocial and unthinkable telephone telephone I person had successful my 25-plus twelvemonth vigor vocation — without a doubt,” Mr. Lindsey said successful an interrogation connected Friday. He said the amusement went to a commercialized interruption to corroborate that the caller wasn’t pulling a prank and past fto the plumber archer his communicative connected air.

“I privation we had video of each of our faces arsenic helium was telling the communicative due to the fact that it was like: Are you kidding me?” Mr. Lindsey said, adding that the 2014 theft was “big news” successful Houston.

During the call, the plumber noted that determination was a $25,000 reward offered, saying with a laugh, “I request immoderate compensation.” He said helium ne'er thought astir pocketing immoderate of the envelopes.

“I’m an honorable man,” helium said.

Rania Mankarious, main enforcement of Crime Stoppers of Houston, said $20,000 of the reward had been offered by Lakewood Church, which donated the wealth to Crime Stoppers aft a twelvemonth passed with nary breaks successful the case.

The enactment inactive has a $5,000 reward for the case, she said, but the wealth would beryllium fixed lone for accusation that helped investigators identify, complaint oregon apprehension a suspect.

Someone who recovered the wealth would not suffice for the reward, unless the find led the constabulary to a suspect, she said.

Mr. Lindsey said helium believed that the plumber was frustrated that helium hadn’t heard thing from the religion oregon the constabulary since helium recovered the stash connected Nov. 10.

“Nobody said convey you,” Mr. Lindsey said. “Nobody has said a connection to this guy. He has solved a lawsuit that has been connected the books for 7 years.”

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