- A plumber discovered envelopes of cash in the walls of Joel Osteen’s Houston megachurch last month.
- Authorities said the discovery is likely connected to a 2014 robbery reported by the church.
- The saga was made public when the plumber called into a morning radio show Thursday to tell the story.
A Texas plumber performing standard maintenance last month made an unexpected discovery at celebrity pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston — a trove of envelopes full of cash and checks hiding in the walls of the megachurch.
The finding comes seven years after the megachurch reported $US600,000 ($AU855,232) in cash and checks stolen from a church safe.
The Houston Police Department said Friday that evidence from the recovered checks suggested that the November discovery is related to the 2014 case.
In a statement posted to Twitter, police said they were called to the Lakewood Church on November 10 to respond to the scene.
“Church members stated that during a renovation project, a large amount of money — including cash, checks, and money orders — was found inside the walls,” the statement said.
A representative with the church confirmed the findings to Insider, saying church officials immediately notified authorities upon the discovery and are assisting police with an investigation.
The caller, who identified himself only as “Justin,” told Lindsey that he was working a job at Lakewood Church earlier this year when he came across the stash.
“There was a loose toilet in the wall, and we removed the tile,” the caller said. “We went to go remove the toilet, and I moved some insulation away and about 500 envelopes fell out of the wall.”
The plumber said he was in shock as he counted thousands of dollars in cash and checks stuffed in the envelopes.
“I was like, ‘Oh, wow,'” he said on the radio show.
Justin said he immediately notified a maintenance person with the church and turned it all in.
Neither the church nor authorities said how much money was recovered. Burglary and theft officers with the police department documented the undisclosed amount and left the funds with Lakewood Church since it was discovered on the premises, authorities said.
In March 2014, officials with the Houston Police Department said $US200,000 ($AU285,077) in cash and $US400,000 ($AU570,154) in checks, as well as written credit card information, was stolen from the church’s safe. A Houston Chronicle report from that time say a church employee was the first to discover the missing money.
The megachurch’s celebrity pastor, Osteen, later announced news of the burglary to his massive congregation that draws tens of thousands of people. The church said the funds were fully insured, and officials were working with an insurance company to restore the money.
—Joel Osteen (@JoelOsteen) March 11, 2014
At the time, Crime Stoppers offered a $US25,000 ($AU35,635) reward for information related to the robbery, but the mystery persisted — until last month.
Crime Stoppers in Houston, however, told KPRC-2, the first outlet to report the discovery, that the statute of limitations had run out. The organization also said the reward would only have been paid out if information led to the arrest of a suspect.