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Plumber who found stolen $600,000 in walls of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church gets $20,000 reward

The Houston plumber who found $600,000 stuffed in the bathroom walls of the high-profile Lakewood Church has been gifted a $20,000 reward after speaking out that he was ‘upset’ famed preacher Joel Osteen hadn’t reached out to thank him.

Justin Cauley was fixing a toilet at America’s largest church on November 10 when he removed a tile behind the appliance and out spilled $200,000 in cash and 500 checks worth a total of $400,000.

The money is believed to be tied to a theft reported at the church seven years ago that has never been solved. After reporting the discovery and returning the money to the church, however, Cauley said he was dismayed when he didn’t hear from Osteen.

‘I wanted to hear him say, “You know, Justin, what you did was right. We understand what you did and what you could have done.” I feel like, at this point, I should have heard something. I’m just a little upset,’ he told reporters Sunday, after attending one of Osteen’s services, Fox News reported.

Justin Cauley, the Houston plumber who found $600,000 in the walls of Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, has been gifted a $20,000 reward for the discovery

Cauley was given the reward by Crime Stoppers of Houston just days after he said he was 'upset' that he didn't hear a 'thank you' from the church's high-profile leader Joel Osteen

Cauley was given the reward by Crime Stoppers of Houston just days after he said he was ‘upset’ that he didn’t hear a ‘thank you’ from the church’s high-profile leader Joel Osteen 

Cauley was fixing a toilet at America’s largest church on November 10 when he removed a tile behind the appliance

Cauley was fixing a toilet at America’s largest church on November 10 when he removed a tile behind the appliance 

Just days after his statement, however, Crime Stoppers of Houston – which has been investigating the stolen funds since 2014 – reached out to offer him a $20,000 reward.

‘My heart stopped, needless to say. I had no clue that that call would come about. Bills are stacking up, work is starting to get slow … This money is gonna help tremendously. It’s a bit of a blessing,’ he told Click2Houston.

A Facebook page listed as a plumber from Houston named ‘Justin Cauley’ shows photos of him with a woman and two babies captioned to indicate they are his family.

Crime Stoppers of Houston offered a $5,000 reward for anyone with information in the case and, two years later, Lakewood donated $20,000 to Crime Stoppers to progress the investigation, as there were still no leads into what happened.

Now, that gift is in Cauley’s hands.

“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,” the church said in a statement on Tuesday.

Cauley intends to ‘pay it forward’ by donating a portion of the money back to Crime Stoppers of Houston and another portion to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Cauley intends to ‘pay it forward’ by donating a portion of the money back to Crime Stoppers of Houston and another portion to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Above is the $20,000 check Crime Stoppers of Houston gifted to Cauley

Above is the $20,000 check Crime Stoppers of Houston gifted to Cauley

Cauley told Click2Houston that he intends to ‘pay it forward’ by donating a portion of the money back to Crime Stoppers of Houston and another portion to the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The $600,000 was stolen in 2014 from a portion of donations made on one weekend of services, which an employee discovered the Monday after Lent. In addition to cash, the thieves took Lakewood Church’s checks and deposit slips that listed parishioners’ credit card information.

An employee had discovered the break-in on the Monday morning following Lent. Donation funds are fully insured, so Lakewood Church did not lose out on the money at the time – but the case is still open.

“Crime Stoppers of Houston is a public safety organization that thrives on the public safety of all communities. We believe that it takes all of us, working together, to keep Houston safe and thriving,’ Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious said in a press release announcing the donation.

‘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,” she added.

‘I’ve been running Crime Stoppers since 2013, been with the organization since 2006 and I’ve never seen anything lick this,’ Mankarious told Click2Houston.

Andy Khan, an employee of Crime Stoppers, said that the agency will refocus on the investigation to determine how the money got into the bathroom walls and who hid it there.

A Facebook page listed as a plumber from Houston named ‘Justin Cauley’ shows photos of him with a woman and two babies captioned to indicate they are his family

A Facebook page listed as a plumber from Houston named ‘Justin Cauley’ shows photos of him with a woman and two babies captioned to indicate they are his family

'This money is gonna help tremendously. It’s a bit of a blessing,’ Cauley said after being gifted the reward

‘This money is gonna help tremendously. It’s a bit of a blessing,’ Cauley said after being gifted the reward

‘In this particular case, at least we got some semblance of finality. Now we gotta go find who the real culprit is in this case,’ he said in a statement.

Cauley first went public after the discovery by calling into a Houston radio morning 100.3 The Bull show to explain what happened.

‘There was a loose toilet in the wall, and we removed the tile,’ he said during the call last Thursday morning. ‘We 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!”

Cauley told the radio show that he informed the church’s supervisors and was made to wait at the church for almost seven hours after his discovery.

At the time of the church’s theft in 2014, it had a weekly attendance of about 43,500 parishioners.

Lakewood now welcomes about 52,000 attendees across multiple services per week, and its services are streamed worldwide. Osteen, 58, the televangelist megachurch pastor, is estimated to be worth $50 million. He is often criticized for preaching that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. The controversial celebrity pastor recently returned $4.4 million in federal COVID relief loans his megachurch received from the government.

The money is believed to be tied to a theft reported at the church seven years ago that has never been solved. Crime Stoppers now plans to relaunch their investigation to determine how the money got behind the walls of the church, who stole it and who hid it there

The money is believed to be tied to a theft reported at the church seven years ago that has never been solved. Crime Stoppers now plans to relaunch their investigation to determine how the money got behind the walls of the church, who stole it and who hid it there

Osteen is often criticized for sermons which teach that wealth is a sign of God's favor. Pictured is Osteen's mansion in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston

Osteen is often criticized for sermons which teach that wealth is a sign of God’s favor. Pictured is Osteen’s mansion in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston

It has also been revealed that Osteen owns a Ferrari, which cost more than $300,000

It has also been revealed that Osteen owns a Ferrari, which cost more than $300,000

According to the Houston Chronicle, Osteen’s Lakewood Church repaid the money after the stadium-sized facility was widely-condemned for accepting the cash in 2020.

A spokesman claimed at that time that they needed the loan because the church – which can 16,800 worshippers at one time – was unable to take weekly collections during COVID closures ,which it says helps pay its 368 staff.

But that sparked an outcry, as details of Osteen’s extreme wealth were once again shared.

His most recent address is listed as a six-bedroom, eight-bathroom mansion in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood worth an estimated $15 million.

It has also been revealed that Osteen owns a Ferrari, which cost more than $300,000.

During the pandemic, he appeared on the Today Show urging people not to ‘focus on what [they] have or don’t have,’ the Daily Beast reported at the time.

The apparent hypocrisy drove some people on social media to complain about the church’s federal loan – the third highest handed out in Houston in July and August 2020, according to the Houston Business Journal.


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