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Up to $600,000 taken from Houston's Lakewood megachurch safe

Lakewood Church, Houston, Tx
Lakewood Church, Houston, Tx

By Amanda Orr

HOUSTON (Reuters) - About $200,000 in cash and twice that amount in checks and written credit card information were taken from a safe at the Lakewood Church led by televangelist Pastor Joel Osteen, police said Tuesday.

The theft is believed to have taken place between 2:30 p.m. local time on Sunday and 8:30 a.m. Monday, when the funds were reported missing, said Houston police spokesman Kese Smith.

A Lakewood Church employee and an off-duty Harris County sheriff's deputy, who was performing security for the Christian megachurch, reported the money missing, Smith said.

Lakewood officials told church members the theft was not a data breach and limited to weekend contributions.

The church is housed in the former sports arena for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association. About 42,000 to 43,000 people attend the church over a weekend.

The funds were fully insured and church officials are working with an insurance company, the church said.

Lakewood Church spokesman Donald Iloff Jr. said only that the church was working with Houston police and declined further comment.

The church is led by Pastor Joel Osteen, a New York Times best-selling author, Victoria Osteen, his wife and co-pastor, and a leadership team made up of Osteen relatives.

(Reporting by Amanda Orr; Editing by David Bailey and Gunna Dickson)

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