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Cops: Man cheated terminally ill boy

Allegedly kept $11,000 intended for custom go-cart

An Arizona man has been accused of cheating a Chicago boy with a terminal illness out of a go-cart, authorities said Thursday.

Douglas Riesberg, 53, received $11,000 from the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Chicago chapter in March for a custom go-cart for the sick boy, who is 16 and on dialysis, Yavapai County sheriff’s spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said. But the go-cart never was delivered, and the money never returned.

A request to interview Riesberg, of Spring Valley, was not immediately answered, and it was unclear whether he had a lawyer.

Phoenix-based Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of severely ill children, sending them and their families on trips to Disney World and arranging for them to be police officers for a day, among others.

The Chicago boy, whose name was withheld, wished for a go-cart with a travel trailer so he could take it off-roading wherever and whenever he wanted.

When Riesberg was paid $11,000 in March, D’Evelyn said he told the foundation the go-cart would be finished in three weeks. But Make-A-Wish didn’t hear from him until a foundation lawyer found him in June.

Riesberg then said the go-cart would be done in July. After not hearing from Riesberg again, Make-A-Wish asked the sheriff’s office for help last month.

Deputies found that Riesberg already was jailed in Prescott on drug charges and interviewed him Saturday about the go-cart. Riesberg told deputies that he was having problems getting a custom go-cart and had planned to deliver his personal go-cart to the boy until the custom one could be finished.

D’Evelyn said Riesberg told deputies he used the $11,000 from Make-A-Wish to help make up for a recent business loss of $80,000. Riesberg had a custom go-cart business and other business interests, D’Evelyn said.

He said Riesberg and the boy had been in constant contact, and the boy had thought of him as a father. The boy’s own father left his family a couple years ago when his son first got sick, D’Evelyn said.

“He was treating Riesberg like the father he didn’t have,” D’Evelyn said. “He felt very betrayed.”

D’Evelyn said the boy is hospitalized and that he hasn’t received a go-cart.

Make-A-Wish spokesman Brent Goodrich said the foundation is working with the family to make sure the wish is granted and trying to figure out how the Chicago chapter contracted with Riesberg.

“This is obviously a very traumatic situation for the family and the chapter,” Goodrich said. “We’re trying to resolve this as soon as possible for the child’s sake.”

Riesberg remains jailed on fraud and theft charges as well as the drug charges.

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