Lakewood Church theft 2014: $600K was stolen from safe years ago; money found in bathroom wall could be connected
HOUSTON -- Churchgoers are reacting after a large amount of money was found hidden inside a bathroom wall in American pastor and televangelist Joel Osteen's Texas church.
They said it's unacceptable the stash of cash and checks was found inside a wall at Lakewood Church in Houston.
Evidence recovered by Houston police suggests the money could be connected to a 2014 theft.
The money was discovered on Nov. 10 during a renovation project, according to HPD.
Although police did not say how much money was found, they described the discovery as a large amount of money, including cash, checks and money orders found inside a wall.
The discovery comes more than seven years after $600,000 was taken from a church safe. The incident happened in 2014 between March 9 and 10.
ABC Houston affiliate KTRK spoke to Lakewood churchgoers Sunday, who called the situation confusing.
"It's unacceptable because it destroys all of the help the church raised for the community," Benito Rodriguez said.
The church is not commenting further, but previously said they are cooperating with the theft investigation.
Houston police say the cash, checks and money orders were inventoried and then left at Lakewood. The man who made this all public is known only as Justin, a plumber.
"This was not a topic where we were expecting a shocking phone call that made national news," said Erik Scott Smith.
Smith is a co-host of the Morning Bullpen with George, Mo and Erik on Houston country radio station 100.3 The Bull.
A man who called himself Justin the plumber said, "I went to go remove the toilet, and I moved some insulation away, and about 500 envelopes fell out of the wall," when he was asked about the incident on the radio show.
Back in 2014, the church released a statement in part saying, "The funds were fully insured, and we are working with our insurance company to restore the stolen funds to the church."
"As he was talking, I was cross referencing all those details. It seemed eerily familiar. Everything he was saying. It seemed like there would be no reason to make this up," said Smith.
He thinks the person claiming to be a plumber may have called his show after working at Lakewood out of frustration.
"I think he's sitting there in his house just waiting for somebody from the church, police department or somewhere to say, 'Thank you,'" said Smith.
The radio show caller isn't talking anymore at this point.
"I hope it's not somebody currently working in a church environment that's hiding $600,000 from the people who donated it," said Smith.