Justin Cauley, the plumber who found $600,000 stashed in a wall at a church belonging to televangelist Joel Osteen, was rewarded $20,000 for his efforts, according to reports.
Cauley found the money while performing work at the Houston church last month. Police have said they believe it was connected to an unsolved theft in 2014, when a similar amount went missing from a church safe.
Crime Stoppers of Houston, which was reportedly investigating that theft, cut the plumber the $20,000 check last week.
“My heart stopped, needless to say.” Cauley told local reporters. “Bills are stacking up, work is starting to get slow […] It’s a bit of a blessing.”
Justin Cauley Found $600K at Joel Osteen Church
According to local reports, Cauley was removing a toilet at Lakewood Church in Houston on Nov. 10, when he found more than half a million dollars in cash and checks behind the bathroom wall.
“There was a loose toilet in the wall, and we removed the tile,” he told a radio station last month. “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!’”
He quickly reported the find and turned over the envelopes to church staff, who eventually determined the money was linked to the 2014 theft. But Cauley said he was disappointed when he never heard back from Joel Osteen personally.
“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,’” the plumber said on Fox News on Sunday. “I feel like, at this point, I should have heard something. I’m just a little upset.”
Crime Stoppers Offers Reward
But days after his TV appearance, Cauley said he was contacted by Crime Stoppers of Houston, a self-styled “public safety organization” that had been investigating the 2014 theft. Though the group had previously offered a $5,000 reward for information on the seven-year-old robbery, Cauley said Crime Stoppers offered him $20,000 for his efforts.
“In 2014, Lakewood Church gave us $20,000 to work on this case,” Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious explained in a press release. “In 2016, they chose to gift us those funds for operations. Today, we are gifting that same amount of money to this Good Samaritan and wishing him and his family a wonderful holiday season.”
“I had no clue that that call would come about,” the grateful plumber told Click2Houston Tuesday. “This money is gonna help tremendously.”
It’s still not clear whether Cauley spoke with Joel Osteen personally after receiving his reward. The millionaire pastor does not appear to have commented on the matter on his social media pages. Lakewood Church employees issued a statement to local reporters Tuesday.
“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,” they wrote. “We are appreciative of the plumber and we hope he pays the gift forward.”
According to at least one report, the money that went missing in 2014 was reimbursed under the church’s insurance policy. It’s unclear what will happen to the money that Cauley discovered.