HOUSTON — It’s been one of the most talked-about stories for the past week. More than $600,000 in cash and checks were found in the walls of Lakewood Church last month. And today we learned the person who found the money has received an award.
Crime Stoppers Director Rania Mankarious handed Justin the plumber a big fat check for $20,000.
It started last week when Justin called our radio partners, 100.3 The Bull, saying he found the envelopes filled with cash and checks in a bathroom wall of Lakewood Church while doing renovations on Nov. 10.
Houston police later said the dates on the checks matched the date of a 2014 theft at the church of around $600,000. Back in 2014, Crime Stoppers had offered their standard $5,000 reward. Lakewood kicked in another $20,000 for information leading to an arrest or charges in the case.
With no arrests, Lakewood gave that reward money to Crime Stoppers as a donation, according to the organization.
Well, now Crime Stoppers is gifting that $20,000 to the plumber who found the stash. He hasn't given his last name.
“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 amount of money to this Good Samaritan and wishing he and his family a wonderful holiday season.” Rania Mankarious said.
"We are appreciative of the plumber and we hope he pays the gift forward,” said Lakewood Church spokeswoman Andrea Davis in a statement to KHOU 11 News.
As for how the cash and checks got into the Lakewood Church walls, that’s still a mystery.
Lakewood Church said the bathroom where the money was discovered is a public bathroom, but it is a single-use bathroom where you can lock the door. It's meant to be used by parents with children, the church said.
Lakewood Church said in 2014 it filed an insurance claim to cover the lost donations. Some of that money has been paid back to the insurance company, the church confirmed to KHOU 11.
If you have information about this or any crime in the Houston area, you’re asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS (8477) or report online to Crime-Stoppers.org. You can also submit a tip through the organization’s mobile app.