HOUSTON - Crime Stoppers of Houston says it will gift $20,000 to the plumber who found a large amount of money inside a wall during a renovation project at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church.
Houston police believe the money – including cash, checks and money orders – is connected to a theft case reported at the church in 2014.
Back in March 2014, Lakewood reported that $600,000 in donations were stolen from its safe after a church employee and an off-duty Harris County Sheriff's Officer noticed a break-in.
Crime Stoppers of Houston automatically offered a cash reward of up to $5,000 for help solving the case, and Lakewood Church added a supplement reward of $20,000.
According to Crime Stoppers, by 2016, Lakewood decided to shift the supplemental reward into a charitable donation to Crime Stoppers of Houston in support of its ongoing public safety work.
The missing money had never been recovered.
On November 10, 2021, officers were called to the church at 3700 Southwest Freeway for a report of property discovered in the building.
Church members told police that the money was found inside a wall during a renovation project.
Police say burglary and theft officers responded to the scene and the money was "inventoried, documented and left in the custody of Lakewood Church since it was property found on its premises."
The department added that evidence from the recovered checks suggests the money is connected to a March 9, 2014, theft report of undisclosed amounts of money at the church.
As the case developed, Crime Stoppers says CEO Rania Mankarious began talking to Deputy Director Nichole Christoph, who also discussed the issues with law enforcement partners. Crime Stoppers says Mankarious also began asking the Crime Stoppers Executive Committee if the organization could gift $20,000, the amount originally given to Crime Stoppers by Lakewood, to the plumber who found the money and turned it in.
On Tuesday, Mankarious received approval to move forward with the gift.
"Crime Stoppers of Houston is a public safety organization that thrives on the public safety of all communities," Mankarious says. "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."
In a statement, Lakewood Church said: "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."