A Twin Cities man allegedly found an unconventional way to make a few bucks: stealing toilet pipes from restaurant and store bathrooms and selling them for scrap.

Mikael J. Carlson, 32, has been charged with the theft of pipes from behind the toilets in restrooms at three McDonald’s restaurants in Eagan, and he’s suspected of other such thefts at Target, Dairy Queen, Gander Mountain and other stores and malls in the Twin Cities area, police say.

The pipes contain yellow brass, which can be sold for scrap, court and police documents say. It sells for about $2.17 a pound, according to Scrapmonster.com.

Police were first contacted about the thefts June 22, when a restaurant manager at the McDonald’s in the 4500 block of Erin Drive in Eagan called to say she had noticed a pipe missing from a toilet the previous day. A white sport-utility vehicle was seen on surveillance video at 12:55 p.m. and a man later identified as Carlson was seen getting into the vehicle.

The restaurant manager later talked to an area manager who reported a similar incident on June 20 at the McDonald’s in the 1900 block of Silver Bell Road. Video from that location appeared to show Carlson walking from the same SUV to the restaurant at 12:02 p.m.

The area manager later reported a third toilet-pipe theft at a McDonald’s in the 1300 block of Town Centre Drive. Video again apparently showed Carlson in the restaurant and the vehicle in the parking lot at 9:55 a.m.

Eagan police sent out a tri-county alert, and within 30 minutes, Blaine police reported a similar theft. They had the license plate number of the vehicle, which led to Carlson.

Eagan police set up surveillance and saw Carlson stop and enter three businesses in Roseville, according to a criminal complaint. When Carlson left each business, the detective confirmed that metal pipes had been removed from the businesses’ bathrooms, the complaint said. When Carlson left a fourth business, he was arrested.

Carlson admitted stealing pipes from the Eagan restaurants, as well as from other businesses in Eagan and Roseville and others in Dakota, Hennepin and Anoka counties, according to the complaint.

If nothing else, the thief was at least courteous: Police said he always made sure to turn off the water before removing the pipes and left one or two stalls intact for customers to use.

Carlson was charged with felony theft in Dakota County District Court.

He made his first court appearance last week and is being held in the county jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.