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Two county-owned vehicles were stolen from the Gallatin County Fairgrounds last month after they were left unlocked with the keys inside.

“For the record, that’s on me,” County Auditor Jennifer Blossom told the Chronicle on Thursday, accepting blame for leaving the keys in the cars.

The heist occurred in the 24 hours after the county’s silent auction on May 14. No one bid on the white 2001 Ford Expedition and an older, bright yellow Chevrolet dually truck marked “Gallatin County.” Both were valued at less than $2,500.

Soon after they were reported stolen to the Bozeman Police Department, a county employee driving on Interstate 90 called 911. Two men were driving an Expedition into Belgrade.

The employee suspected that it was the stolen vehicle because of its paint — half of the Expedition had been crudely spray-painted black.

After locating the vehicle and matching its VIN number, law enforcement towed the Expedition to the Law and Justice Center in Bozeman.

Police Sgt. Travis Munter said Thursday that the other truck is still missing and that the investigation notes say “all leads have been exhausted.” He also said no one has been charged with a related crime.

The Expedition, Blossom said, smelled terrible. It had first been used by K9 police, then as a coroner vehicle, and finally by the West Yellowstone Compost Facility. And the Chevrolet truck couldn’t be started “without a jump.”

But the vehicles weren’t the only items to leave the auction without being paid for.

Blossom said that a bidder at the auction was given a receipt for items, including a lathe and a generator, that had not been paid for. Those same items were then immediately “flipped” using online classifieds, she said.

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Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.

Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

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