Televangelist Joel Osteen’s Lakewood mega-church in Houston announced on Monday that $600,000 (R6,5m) in Sunday donations were stolen from its safe last weekend.
An off-duty Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy, and church employee, noticed the break in around 8:30 am on Monday morning. Investigators believe the robbery occurred sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. The donations were from services on March 8 and March 9 and included cash, cheques and credit card information. Lakewood has asked anyone who attended services this weekend to pay attention to their accounts and report any suspicious activity. A statement from the church said that although the funds were fully insured, and that the Church was working with the insurance company to restore the funds, they were heartbroken to learn of the crime.
Lakewood stresses to it’s congregation that this was not a data breach, but says the theft was limited to donations made in the actual services.
On any given Sunday, around 40 000 people attend services led by Osteen at Lakewood, whose televised sermons reach nearly 100 countries. On Tuesday, Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva said that nobody has been arrested in the theft. Church officials are cooperating with the police investigation. Lakewood urged anyone with questions about this matter to please contact their Customer Service Department at 713-491-1506.