The suburban mother turned drug-dealer whose story was featured in a recent Reporter Newspapers series about the opioid epidemic was sentenced May 24 to three years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Cathine Lavina Sellers, 39, of Roswell was convicted in January of possession with intent to distribute the opioid fentanyl and two synthetic opioids, furanyl-fentanyl and U-47700. From her townhome, Sellers was dealing counterfeit oxycodone pills that contained those other opioids. Fentanyl, authorities say, is a narcotic so potent it can kill someone exposed to a dose the size of a few grains of sand, making it a danger to not only its users, but also police officers who confiscate it.

Cathine Sellers in a booking photo from a Jan. 13, 2017 arrest in Roswell. (Fulton County Sheriff’s Office)

Sellers was arrested in 2017 after selling pills to her ex, who was working as a confidential source for the Drug Enforcement Administration and had informed for the Sandy Springs Police Department since 2016.

Suburban drug-dealing is now a common part of the opioid epidemic, and authorities previously told the Reporter that fentanyl and synthetic opioids are part of a new – and sometimes lethal – cat-and-mouse game, where traffickers create new opioids that are not yet illegal.

In a press release about Sellers’ sentencing, Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, noted the lethal potential of fentanyl.

“These counterfeit pills posed a particular danger to our communities, as they are comparably 50 times more potent than prescription oxycodone and present a substantially higher risk of overdose,” Pak said.

Sellers and her case were profiled earlier this year as one installment of the Reporter’s exclusive four-part series “Coping with a Crisis: Opioid Addiction in the Suburbs.” The series looked at how local families, nurses, prosecutors, recovering addicts and others are responding to a growing epidemic that already kills more people than cars, guns or breast cancer each year.

The subjects of other installments of “Coping with a Crisis” included: families using obituaries to tell the harsh truth of loved ones’ overdose deaths; a Dunwoody man who runs treatment facilities for opioid users after surviving eight overdoses and facing prison time; and how local schools decide whether to carry an antidote to opioid overdoses, which kill far more schoolchildren than mass shootings do.

The Reporter’s podcast “Reporter Extra” took a deeper look at the opioid crisis with Max Blau, the reporter on the series, and Dunwoody Police Sgt. Robert Parsons, who coordinates his force’s use of the overdose antidote naloxone.

The Reporter also surveyed local residents for their experiences with opioid addiction, finding it has impacted many lives, and heard from a local doctor about what the drug crisis means in his emergency room every day.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.