Update: The plumber who stumbled on cash and checks inside a megachurch wall will walk away from the experience a little richer. While police haven't disclosed the amount that was found, evidence suggests it is connected to theft of $600,000 from Lakewood Church in 2014, reports NBC News. Now, Crime Stoppers will be gifting Justin Cauley $20,000. ABC13 explains that money's circuitous path: The church supplied $20,000 to Crime Stoppers in 2014 as part of a reward in the case (Crime Stoppers added $5,000 of its own). Two years later the church's portion was converted into a donation to Crime Stoppers of Houston. Crime Stoppers on Tuesday said it had approval to gift $20,000 to Cauley. Our original story from Friday follows:
Police in Houston are looking into what the Hardy Boys might call the Mystery of the Megachurch Toilet. A caller to a morning show at a Houston radio station this week identified himself as a plumber who had found hundreds of envelopes full of cash and checks behind a loose toilet when he was working at Lakewood Church last month, KPRC reports. Seven years ago, the megachurch, whose senior pastor is Joel Osteen, said around $600,000 in cash and checks had been stolen from a safe. The plumber told 100.3 FM morning show host George Lindsey that around 500 envelopes fell out of the wall when he moved some tiles and insulation aside.
The plumber said he contacted the maintenance supervisor and turned the money in. Lindsey said the development was "like a movie." "I mean they stole the money, but they didn’t get it out of the wall," he said. "Did they have an accident, you know what I mean? It's like, why did they never go back?" The church confirmed in a statement to KHOU 11 that "an undisclosed amount of cash and checks were found" during recent repair work and police were notified.
No arrests were made after the 2014 theft, which was discovered when church staffers started processing the weekend's collections on a Monday morning, the Houston Chronicle reports. At the time, Crime Stoppers offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. The organization says the plumber won't get the reward because too much time has elapsed and the find has not identified a suspect. But "he's the one who found it," Lindsey said. "If he never had been doing that work behind that toilet, they would have never known that money was there."
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