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A plumber who discovered stacks of cash and checks inside a wall at celebrity televangelist Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church last month has been awarded $20,000 by Crime Stoppers of Houston.
The envelopes were discovered behind a loose toilet by the plumber while he was doing repairs at the Houston church on Nov. 10 — seven years after the church reported $600,000 in cash and checks stolen from a safe.
"Evidence from the recovered checks suggests that the discovery of was connected to the March 2014 theft," Crime Stoppers of Houston said in a statement. The Houston Police Department is still investigating the case.
Back then, Crime Stoppers of Houston offered a cash reward of up to $5,000, and Lakewood Church added a supplemental reward of $20,000, bringing the total to $25,000 to anyone with information that led to an arrest. After years of no word on the case, Lakewood turned that sum into a charitable donation to Crime Stoppers of Houston.
Following news of the discovery behind the church wall, Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious asked the Crime Stoppers Executive Committee if the organization could gift $20,000 to the “Good Samaritan” who turned in the money and received approval, the statement said.
"In 2014, Lakewood Church gave us $20,000 to work on this case. In 2016, they chose to gift us those funds for operations," Mankarious said in the statement. "Today, we are gifting that same [amount] of money to this Good Samaritan and wishing he and his family a wonderful holiday season."
"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," she added.
The plumber behind the discovery, Justin Cauley, told NBC affiliate KPRC, "This money is going to help tremendously."
"Bills are stacking up," he said. "I’m trying to make the best of it, and today, the light shined through."
Lakewood responded to the news in a statement to KPRC: “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 Houston Police Department said in a statement last week that "an undisclosed amount of money was inventoried, documented and left in the custody of Lakewood Church since it was property found on its premises."