SAUGUS — José Carvalho knew a purported mobster used to live here. He figured he was bound to find something.
On Saturday, workers removing sheetrock from the basement ceiling of his two-story house discovered this: three revolvers, a handful of gray bullets, and two pellet guns.
"People hide stuff and then forget," Carvalho said, "and he was a mobster, so I kind of expected it."
It wasn't the first time he has found peculiar things while remodeling homes, but this time was different. This time, Carvalho immediately called police.
"Guns like that, I don't want, I don't want to touch, and I don't want to get near," said Carvalho, who served as a prison guard in the US Army.
If the guns did belong to the home's prior owner, listed in property records and known by neighbors as Anthony D'Agostino, they may have direct ties to the once-powerful Winter Hill Gang. D'Agostino was an enforcer for the gang, said Bob Long, a retired State Police detective who spent his career chasing the group.
"They're not in the leadership position or policy making. They are just called upon and paid for each hit," Long said of enforcers. "They are invaluable assets to any kind of organized crime syndicate."
Two online public records databases show that D'Agostino died in February 2010, nearly 50 years after escaping death during a surprise attack while leaving a 4-year-old's birthday party in Somerville.
"Tony Blue," as D'Agostino was known, was with mob boss Buddy McLean at the Winter Hill Lounge in 1965 when a lone shooter fired six or seven rounds, killing McLean.
The ambush targeted McLean, then the leader of the Winter Hill Gang. D'Agostino and another man were hit repeatedly. D'Agostino was struck by seven slugs in the arm and chest, shattering his arm, according to a Globe article.
"Probably at the time he was shot with Buddy McLean, he was one of the most dangerous men in Boston," Long said of D'Agostino. "The arsenal he has in his house corroborates that suggestion."
But Saugus police have stopped short of saying that the guns belonged to D'Agostino or that there is any connection between the weapons and crime. A serial-number inquiry is underway to determine the weapons' age and ownership history, said Lieutenant Leonard Campanello, assistant chief of the Saugus Police Department.
"At this point, we have no criminal activity associated with these guns, we have no illegal possessions of these guns," Campanello said.
The serial-number check could take weeks because the weapons are older than the computerized system used to register firearms in Massachusetts, Campanello said. Paper records with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will be checked next, and then potentially a few other databases, he said.
If the serial-number search produces a link to criminal activity, the guns could be cross-referenced with evidence from unsolved crimes dating back decades, Campanello said.
But without corroborating evidence from a crime scene, the guns may not be linked to any crimes, even if a mob hitman owned them.
Matt Woolbright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.