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Faith Family pastor feels for stolen funds from brother-in-law's Houston church

By Victoria Advocate
March 12, 2014 at 11 p.m.
Updated March 11, 2014 at 10:12 p.m.

Flags fly in front of the Lakewood Church  in Houston. Authorities are investigating after 600,000 in checks and cash was stolen from a safe at Pastor Joel Osteen's Houston megachurch, which has one of the largest congregations in the country. Police spokesman Kese Smith said Tuesday 200,000 in cash and 400,000 in checks were stolen from a safe sometime between 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 8:30 a.m. Monday.  (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

HOUSTON (AP) - Faith Family's senior pastor Jim Graff said he "feels" for his brother-in-law, Pastor Joel Osteen, after his Houston church was robbed earlier this week.

Authorities are investigating after $600,000 in checks and cash was stolen from a safe at Osteen's Houston megachurch, Lakewood Church, which has one of the largest congregations in the country.

Graff said while the Lakewood theft was tragic, he doesn't anticipate a similar robbery at Faith Family Church.

"We have a system with many checks and balances designed by CPAs who work with churches," Graff said. "We know this is a common issue in our society, and we certainly feel for Lakewood. Fortunately, we've never had an incident like this in our 25 years here."

Houston police spokesman Kese Smith said Tuesday that $200,000 in cash and $400,000 in checks were stolen from a safe between 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 8:30 a.m. Monday.

The theft was reported Monday morning by a church employee and an off-duty sheriff's deputy who provides security at the facility.

No arrests have been made, Smith said.

Church officials declined to comment Tuesday.

In a statement issued Monday, Lakewood Church said the money and checks taken as well as some envelopes with written credit card information were limited to funds given during this past weekend's Saturday and Sunday services.

"We are working with the police to fully investigate the incident," the statement reads. "The funds were fully insured, and we are working with our insurance company to restore the stolen funds to the church."

The church encouraged people who made contributions this past weekend to keep track of their accounts and report any suspicious activity.

But church officials noted there was no electronic data breach and that individuals who put their offerings in a drop box, gave online or made a bookstore purchase were not affected.

More than 40,000 people attend weekly services led by Osteen, whose televised sermons reach nearly 100 countries.

Victoria Advocate faith editor Jennifer Preyss contributed to this report.

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