Monique Y. Villegas is a Special Agent in Charge at ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division and she took a unique path to joining the agency. She began her career in federal government when she took a job as a clerk with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, while also earning her undergraduate degree from California State University Long Beach.
During that time, Villegas had the opportunity to observe federal special agents at work. This inspired her to pursue a long-term career in federal law enforcement. She ended up meeting an FBI agent who was working on a large fraud case with her agency, who suggested that she consider a career with ATF.
Determined to make her mark, Villegas researched the agency, applied for a job, and was hired as an Investigative Analyst. This success made her parents feel proud - they often told her that she would spend her life protecting the public.
Villegas decided to maximize her work experiences by learning about various jobs in the agency. She then applied for a special agent position. In 1995, her hard work paid off when Villegas became a special agent in ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division.
She grew up in a predominantly Latino section of East Los Angeles and had many friends and neighbors who had similar, strong family ties. This made it easy for her to mesh well with members of the community and build lasting relationships. Along the way, she also saw some of her childhood friends without strong family systems succumb to peer pressure, including pressures to take drugs and participate in criminal activities. This also made an impact on her decision to work for ATF because she knew she could make a difference.
Villegas’s maternal and paternal grandparents were from Mexico and they lived in an area that had very few jobs. Her grandparents left to their homeland to explore available opportunities in the United States and established a new home in Los Angeles, California.
As a child, her grandparents instilled the importance of patriotism to the U.S., pursuing college education and having a strong work ethic. Their goal was to make sure the entire family thrived in life by acknowledging the various job opportunities available in the U.S.
Villegas took their advice to heart and channeled it into pursuing her graduate degree in Masters in Public Service (M.P.S) from the George Washington University while continuing to work at ATF.
Exploring Different Career Paths
Villegas pursued roles such as resident agent in charge in Tucson, AZ all the way to the special agent in charge in Phoenix, AZ to expand her professional network and increase her strategic approach to work. She continues to dedicate her time advancing the mission of ATF by serving in a variety of roles that would have a greater impact on the communities that we serve.
She obtained leadership positions in various internal program offices. For example, she worked as a ASAC Secretary, Deputy Chief of Leadership and Professional Development in the Human Resources Professional Development Division, and Chief of Executive Protection Branch in the Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations (OPRSO). Then, in 2020, she was promoted to Special Agent in Charge in the Los Angeles Field Division.
Importance of Diverse Voices in Federal Law Enforcement
Villegas’ upbringing in the inner city of East L.A. reminds her of why it’s important to recruit and retain people from the Latino community at ATF. Their contributions make people feel safe and supported when they see familiar faces respond to violent crimes.
She believes that serving as a supervisor or an agent on the scene helps build trust with people in the Latino community when they see members of law enforcement who are Latino. In addition, Villegas feels its important to be represented in the work force because Latinos make up roughly 20% of the total U.S. population.
She believes ATF will continue to benefit from the increased diversity of outlooks and thoughts which can foster better decision-making and problem-solving during investigations and inspections. This is especially important when a person of Latino heritage is working a predominately Latino area because they can bring their insights and understanding of their culture and community to the job, as well as share those concepts with ATF’s partners.