Mystery of Manhattan cathedral fire deepens as former Gambino mob enforcer is accused of arson by Serbian newspaper


•           John Alite has spent years in prison in America and Brazil but is now free and has become a motivational speaker
•           A Serbian newspaper has accused ex-mobster of starting a fire that gutted a Christian Orthodox cathedral
•           Investigators believe inferno was started by candles used in earlier Orthodox Easter services that were not properly extinguished
•           But others have said the the blaze could be an act of revenge arson
•           Church figures suggest Orthodox buildings are being targeted after the church blocked a controversial Cardinal from being made a Saint
•           In 2008, Alite put his Mafia life behind him, pleading guilty to two murders, four conspiracies to murder, eight shootings and two attempted shootings
By DAILYMAIL.COM REPORTER
PUBLISHED: 23:02 EST, 7 May 2016 | UPDATED: 14:27 EST, 8 May 2016
John Alite has taken a baseball bat to countless guys. He has stabbed, shot and killed dozens more, yet despite putting his Mafia life behind him in 2008, he is now accused of setting fire to a Manhattan cathedral.
A Serbian newspaper has accused former Gambino enforcer of torching the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava on West 25th Street last Sunday.
Speaking to the New York Post, he called the allegation 'ridiculous.'
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New life: Mob enforcer John Alite has put aside a life in the Mafia to become a motivational speaker
Some believe the devastating fire was an act of arson carried out by people angry that the Orthodox church is attempting to block a controversial Cardinal from being made a Saint
Alite, who was released from jail in 2013, said the article was likely planted to inflame long-standing tensions between Albanians and Serbs.
'That's not what my life is about,' he said. 'I don't want to be known as the guy who used to kill people on the street.'
Alite says he called the FBI and Homeland Security when the article appeared.
'I contacted them,' Alite told the Post. 'I told them I was being accused of something. Everybody thought it was ridiculous.'
Investigators believe the blaze may have been started by candles left over from Easter services on Sunday that were not properly extinguished before being placed in a cardboard box.
Two services took place in the morning at the church, with a luncheon scheduled for 1pm that was attended by around 700 people.
Fortunately nobody was in the building at the time of the blaze, though a caretaker did attempt to extinguish the flames before suffering from smoke inhalation and being dragged to safety.
However, members of the community believe the fire may have been sparked as retaliation for a row over the church's role in blocking the canonization of Nazi-supporting Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, which has caused a rift between Serbia and Croatia.
The theory comes after three other Orthodox churches across the globe - two in Australia and another in Russia - also caught fire on Sunday.
'His canonization, to our great regret, would return the relations between Serbs and Croats, as well as between Catholics and Orthodox faithful, back to their tragic history.'
More than 170 firefighters were called to deal with the blaze in the Flatiron district of Manhattan after it broke out at around 7pm on Sunday
 While 700 people are estimated to have attended Easter services in the building earlier in the day, nobody was inside at the time the blaze broke out
Designed by Richard M. Upjohn, founder of the American Institute of Architects, the church was consecrated in 1855 and made a New York landmark in 1968
Dusan T. Batakovic, a former Serbian ambassador, told the New York Post: 'Too many churches have burned to call it an accident.
'It is very strange that it happened, that the fires all took place on Easter, the greatest Christian Orthodox holiday. Some kind of terrorist action can not be excluded.'
Alite, meanwhile, has been out of jail for the past four years and has 'reinvented' himself as a motivational speaker who hopes to 'scare kids straight,' give corporate employees an aggressive edge and consult on movies and TV shows trying to accurately portray the world in which he once live and excelled.
For more than twenty years Alite was a high ranking member of the Gambino crime family. He worked for the Gottis – both father and son. He was, he said, 'at the top of the food chain', one of their top earners and enforcers.
He could never be a 'made' man in the mafia but he thought he was moving in a world governed by rules; codes of honour, loyalty and respect.
Then, when he was in jail in Brazil, Alite was passed secret 302s (files kept by the FBI documenting interviews with their informants) showing that John Gotti Jr, the man who had stood by him when he married his first wife in 1998, was 'a super-rat'. And everything changed.

In 2008 he secretly pleaded guilty to two murders, four conspiracies to murder, at least eight shootings and two attempted shootings as well as armed home invasions and armed robberies in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida.