By David Williams, CNN
A plumber doing repair work at pastor Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church found hundreds of envelopes of cash and checks hidden in a wall that police think is connected to a massive 2014 theft at the Houston mega-church.
Officers were called to the church on November 10 to investigate the discovery, according to a statement from the Houston Police Department.
“Church members stated that during a renovation project, a large amount of money — including cash, checks and money orders — was found inside a wall,” the statement said.
Police said that evidence from the recovered checks suggests that the envelopes are connected to the March 9, 2014, theft of undisclosed amounts of money from the church.
CNN reported at the time that about $600,000 — $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks — was taken from a church safe. The money came from contributions given on March 8 and 9 of 2014.
Burglary and theft officers inventoried and documented the recovered money and left it in the custody of the church, because it was property found on its premises, the statement said.
Police said the investigation is ongoing.
Lakewood Church confirmed the discovery in a statement provided to CNN, but it did not provide additional information because the investigation is still active.
“Recently, while repair work was being done at Lakewood Church, an undisclosed amount of cash and checks were found,” the statement said. “Lakewood immediately notified the Houston Police Department and is assisting them with their investigation.”
News of the find became public on Thursday when a man who identified himself as the plumber called into Houston radio station 100.3 The Bull and shared the story with the Morning Bullpen show.
“There was a loose toilet in the wall and we removed the tile … Went to go remove the toilet and I moved some insulation away and about 500 envelopes fell out of the wall, and I was like, ‘Oh wow,'” the caller said.
The caller said he contacted the maintenance supervisor and turned the money in.
Co-host George Lindsey told CNN that they talked to the man, who said his name was Justin, off the air to make sure it wasn’t a prank.
“I wish we had video of our faces because we were all just like, ‘holy cow,’ Lindsey said. He said he was impressed that Justin did the right thing and turned in the money.
“He could have stashed some of this money in his pocket and walked out and never said anything to anybody, but [he] was an honest, stand-up kind of guy,” Lindsey said.
Crimestoppers of Houston had offered a $25,000 reward in 2014 for information leading to an arrest in the case, but the organization says that money is no longer available because the statute of limitations has expired in the case.
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