A plumber who found stacks of cash and checks in a wall at star televangelist Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston has received a $20,000 reward for his discovery, said the Crime Stoppers of Houston, which gave him the money. The findings could potentially help solve a $600,000 theft case that was reported at the church in 2014.
The plumber, identified as Justin Cauley by KPRC-TV, discovered a large amount of money during a renovation project on November 10. Last week, Houston police said they responded to the church last month after a large amount of money — including cash, checks and money orders — were found. They said evidence from the recovered checks suggested it was “connected” to the March 2014 theft.
Seven years ago, Crime Stoppers offered a cash reward of up to $5,000 and Lakewood Church offered a supplemental $20,000 to anyone with information on the missing money. When there were no updates on the case, the money turned into a charitable donation to the Crime Stoppers of Houston. Following the discovery last month, Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious received approval from the program’s executive committee to give the $20,000 to Cauley.
“We believe that it takes all of us, working together, to keep Houston safe and thriving,” Mankarious said in a statement. “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.”
Last week, Cauley first claimed on a local radio station that he found nearly 500 envelopes of cash inside the church. He then told KPRC-TV on Tuesday that he thought he was in trouble after receiving a call from Crime Stoppers. However, he later learned it was an early Christmas gift.
“My heart stopped, needless to say,” he said. “I had no clue that would come about.”
He said the money came at the right time, adding that “bills are stacking up” and work has slowed during the holidays.
“I’m trying to make the make the best of it, and today, that light shined through,” Cauley told KPRC-TV. He plans on donating a portion of the money back to Crime Stoppers and the Houston SPCA.
Lakewood Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Houston Police Department is still investigating the 2014 theft.