Federal officials announced on Thursday that they uncovered a large-scale “transnational criminal ring” in which individuals from call centers originating in India extorted money primarily from immigrants and the elderly. According to Justice Department officials, the individuals impersonated U.S. federal, state and local officials and demanded payments to avoid arrest and deportation or recover unpaid taxes. In total, they stole hundreds of millions of dollars, including tens of thousands of dollars from some of the most vulnerable people. The caller I.D. allegedly displayed the U.S. government or the Internal Revenue Service. In total, 20 people have been arrested in connection with the fraud ring after nine search warrants were executed in eight states. Charges were brought in the southern district of Texas, which covers the Houston area. Officials made clear at a press conference on Thursday morning that the U.S. government “does not operate in the manner”—that is, make calls demanding payments to avoid deportation or arrest.