In tough economic times, aluminum is a hot commodity. Because of its recyclable properties — and the fact that recycled aluminum can easily be exchanged for cash — people will do just about anything to turn that scrap into dollars.

Of course, it’s one thing for a family to collect soda cans from the office or the neighborhood. On the other extreme, you have a recent story out of Philadelphia that involves theft and a little bit of espionage.

Brian Pierson of Philadelphia decided it’d be a good idea to steal aluminum forms from J.M. Pereira & Sons construction company. But after the first theft on July 17, owner Carl Pereira decided he’d take matters into his own hands. From the Times Herald of Montgomery County:

Court papers indicate that Carl Pereira told authorities that aluminum construction forms were stolen from his work site at 100 Destiny Way in Montgomery Township during the early morning hours of July 17, July 21 and July 23.

“After the first theft on July 17, Pereira hid a GPS tracking device in a construction form at the Montgomery Township construction site location,” Montgomery Township Detective James Reape wrote in the criminal complaint.

On July 21, when the second theft occurred, the GPS device provided the location of the stolen goods to be a Philadelphia area scrap metal yard, court papers indicate. Pereira accompanied Philadelphia police to the scrap yard and identified the property and retrieved the tracking device.

Video surveillance showed a male operating a red Dodge Ram pickup truck selling the aluminum to the scrap yard at 7:49 a.m. July 21, according to the arrest affidavit.

The lesson here? Stick to collecting cans for that extra recycling money. And if you’ve had some valuable aluminum stolen from you, GPS technology can be your friend.