When police saw a van parked near the entrance to a Frome scrapyard in the early hours of the morning they found the vehicle filled with bags of copper piping.
When they spoke to the Romanian-born driver he said he had found the metal piled up on the side of the road and helped himself.
Defending solicitor Michaela Rose said it was an opportunistic crime which lacked sophistication and all the goods were recovered by the police.
Catalin Boata, 31, of Mayfield Road, Handsworth, in Birmingham, pleaded guilty to stealing a quantity of copper worth £600 belonging to Kevin Ransome on April 30 when he appeared before South Somerset and Mendip Magistrates.
Christine Hart, prosecuting, said police were driving along Bunns Lane, in Frome, at 2.20am when they saw a vehicle parked on the roadside about 20 yards from the entrance to Ransome's Scrapyard.
"Boata was in the driver's seat and a search of the vehicle revealed a number of bags of copper piping and flattened heating cylinders," said Ms Hart.
"The officers asked the defendant where the items had come from and he said he had found them piled up on the side of the road.
"He was arrested and when interviewed said that he had visited a potential building job in Bath and ended up getting lost, and when he found the scrap piled up on the roadside he loaded it into his van."
Miss Rose said Boata had been in the UK for about 18 months and had moved from Romania in order to get a better life.
"He has no family or dependents in this country and is not entitled to benefits and currently lives with friends," she said.
"The police do not dispute the facts that this offence was opportunistic and unsophisticated."
The magistrates imposed a 12-month conditional discharge on Boata and made no order for costs.